My husband and I talked about getting a puppy pretty much right out of the gate — like before kids, just after we got home from our honeymoon. With two full-time jobs and remote work a rarity twelve years ago, we didn’t think we could swing taking care of an active young canine so we tabled it.
We both liked the idea of owning a family dog eventually, but since we spent much of the next 10 years producing our own puppies, we continued to put it off.
But seeing our oldest child with his uncle’s dog, and noticing the calming effect it had, our interest grew when our oldest approached double digits. We figured he was now old enough to help, and we were moving into a bigger house. Perhaps adding a puppy shortly after our move made sense — rip that Band-Aid off!
We brought our 9-week-old golden retriever, Apollo, home about a month after we moved, in August of 2022.
The Verdict: Not a disaster, Not a triumph
Nothing went drastically wrong. Our dog, true to his breed, was quite easy to train, especially to housebreak. He only had a handful of accidents indoors and it was totally on us for not getting him out quickly enough. Thanks to crate training, there has been minimal damage to our home and furniture (golden retrievers are NOTORIOUS chewers).
We knew this dog would shed, and he does, but it’s nothing our new Dyson Ball Animal can’t handle! And as long as I stay on top of cleaning, the house doesn’t smell too badly like a dog.
Essentially, my worst fears about dog ownership did not come true.
Still, adding a puppy to a household when you have four children –one a toddler — is not nothing. The greatest challenge is really just managing his energy level amidst the competing energy coming at me from the kids. He is rambunctious in the morning, I’m grouchy in the morning, and my kids usually are too. It’s not my favorite time of day. Also, our oldest, now 10, took a while to figure out how to handle our active young pup, and he was bitten a lot during the first six months while the dog was teething. Because our Apollo is also large for his breed, he is tough to wrangle, so there are limits to how much our son can help take care of him. These were all things we didn’t foresee — which was really just due to our own ignorance. You read a lot about how great goldens are with kids, and how they have a soft mouth, but I think that really starts to apply when the dog is older and more settled!
A related, and unforeseen, challenge is that the kids find him to be too much to handle in these moments. My 7-year-old hates it when he follows her around licking her first thing in the morning. My oldest sometimes just wants to be left alone after school while the dog thinks it’s playtime. I tend to get annoyed as a result. I thought these kids would love having a dog, making the extra work worth it!
If you have a young family and are considering adding a dog, I would say definitely don’t do it when you have an infant. A puppy plus a toddler is borderline manageable. Adding a puppy during a major life transition, such as a move, plus a toddler and three other kids, often felt like too much. Perhaps the Band-Aid should have been removed slowly.
But then again, we seem to be past the most painful training months, and we are beginning to get the hang of it as Apollo approaches his first birthday. I catch the kids admiring him more and more.
Maybe I’ll write an update in a few years, with a long-view perspective on owning a family dog.