Are you considering adding a puppy or rescue dog to your family?
In July, we added Sadie, a German Shepherd puppy, to our family. As excited as I was, I was also a bit apprehensive since I had never owned a large dog before. After doing a lot of research, we decided we would like a dog to train, exercise with, and be an overall companion to our family, so a German Shepherd suited us well. Here are three things to know before you commit to getting a fur baby:
1. Breed Matters
Do you want a little lap dog, a lazy day, or a dog that will enjoy many activities with you and your family? There are breeds for each type. If you choose a working dog, you will want to start learning about dog training and enrichment activities as we did. There is a whole market out there with dog activities, puzzles, and books. This has become a family effort. My six-year-old and four-year-old can go out with the puppy and play with her.
If you want more of a lap dog, then make sure you get a dog that is not traditionally bred to be an active working dog. If you are going to get a rescue dog, most reputable organizations are great at describing dogs accurately so that you can find a good fit for your family.
Also, if you are going to get a purebred, do some research to understand the breed. Every dog breed has its nuances and eccentricities, and it is important to know what to expect of your dog. This will also help your bonding process.
2. Find a Dog Community
When you are in the throes of puppyhood, it can help find a dog parent community. On social media, you can find many ideas and advice from various groups. I have found some great groups specific to German Shepherds. A word of caution, though: There are competing ideas and philosophies, and yes, even hardcore shaming. People can be ruthless and give bad advice. You can get some advice and enrichment ideas from fellow dog owners, but always consult with a trusted veterinarian regarding your pet’s health and find a reputable source to get advice about training.
In addition to social media, we have some dog friends for Sadie. We have also done puppy classes, and we take her to pet-friendly stores. All of these are places that you can become a part of the “dog” community. My kids love accompanying me to these places because they get a chance to see and sometimes pet other dogs. This has become a new family bonding experience, as we all participate and enjoy taking care of our puppy.
3. Be Prepared to Combat Dog Mom Guilt
A new dog is very time-consuming. She can never be unsupervised and needs a lot of stimulation throughout the day. For the first few months, it was like adding another baby to the family in the way that I feel like I was spread very thin. I felt guilty for paying too much attention to the dog and not enough to my kids or for getting busy and leaving the dog alone for too long.
Then I would remember that everyone was bonding with Sadie, and she seemed to be doing great. My kids fell in love with her very quickly, and as she grows bigger, it seems that they enjoy hugging her more and more. At eight months old, Sadie is still a wild puppy, but as we train her and continue working with her, she is shaping up to be a wonderful family companion. She is now incorporated into many of our family activities. My kids run and play fetch with her, and my husband and I have a walking buddy.
I have learned to be kind to myself once again.
As moms, no matter how much we are rocking the gig, we never stop criticizing ourselves, even as dog moms.
So if you have or are getting a new dog soon, do your usual mom routine and research, prepare the house, your family, and then please be kind to yourself. You’ve got this! And you will be rewarded by seeing the close bonds that everyone forms with the new furry family member.