Thinking of Getting a Puppy. Need Advice in Deciding!

Updated on December 09, 2009
J.H. asks from Burlington, VT
18 answers

I am a SAHM to a newly 3 year old and a 19 month old. My husband and I are seriously considering getting a female black lab mix 8 week old puppy. We visited with the dog twice at our local humane society and I am just in love with her! She is very calm and mild considering her age. I have never had or lived with a dog before and this puppy would be mostly my responsibility. I am looking for advice from those who have been there on what the day to day reality of living with and caring for a dog is like. I am wondering about things like how much they need to be outside (we have a fenced yard), can they be in the yard alone (is that stimulating enough?), what do you do when the weather is very, very cold (as it is so much here!). Really any experiences you can share would be so helpful in making this big decision! I can imagine all the love and good times and of course the work but I know there must be many things I havent thought of or imagined. Thanks in advance!

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answers from Burlington on

It can be done. It is like getting a 3rd child, so read up on crate training and the house breaking piece. They need lots of exercise (all dogs do) and appreciate companionship so much more than cats, so outside solo usually is just not enough. Walks, running outside with the kids, all fun. Dog parks work well (for all to get outside and exercise, no matter the weather). Any friends that have dogs too? Nice to have human and canine play dates. Dogs play outside to run off some steam before adding the kids into the mix. Know that it is a lot of work, but can be a great addition to the family. Think about traveling too.

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answers from Boston on

I am a 46 yomother of two (4+7) and have had dogs since I was 8. I have been a board member of a local dog club, participated in both show and obedience trials, and currently own 3 dogs (and a litter of 5 puppies), I think you might want to either wait or consider adopting an older dog. It can be very tricky dealing with young children around puppies. They want to hold them, pick them up, pull tails, (and everything else!) and as we all know, don't always listen to mommy. Puppies go through various stages and can become frightened or aggressive if not treated correctly. You also don't want your children to become frightened of dogs from a playful nip. Even my 4yo daughter sometimes forgets they are not toys and has to be reminded how to handle them and not get too excited. That laidback 8 week old puppy is going to become larger and more active (I once had a lab mix puppy that could initially fit in my purse that rapidly grew to 75 lbs). It's great that you have a fenced yard, but dogs should be walked at least once a day and they should not be kept out in the yard all the time; bored dogs can become destructive. They are pack animals and want to be part of the family. It will need to be housebroken (in all kinds of weather!) and crate trained and you should also invest time in puppy classes and basic training to make sure it is a well-socialized and well-behaved dog. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it is a LOT of work! Get out some books and read up on how to raise a puppy, and see if there is a dog club in your area to visit and ask questions. There is also the expense of regular vet bills and unexpected illness. It's a wonderful thing to own a dog...just make sure you have the time and bandwidth to invest right now! :)



answers from Boston on

Let me just say, I understand your wanting this puppy. Puppies are adorable and they are wonderful when they are adults as well. Black labs are generally lovable, gentle, good with people, children, other dogs, so it sounds like a great choice. But many people who get a puppy or even an adult dog don't always realize what a responsibility they are. You can't just leave them alone for hours at a time, or outdoors in the cold. They want to be part of your family. It is cruel to get a dog then just leave them outside alone or even inside alone for more than 3-4 hours. So I would advise you to only take this puppy if you are committed to making her part of your family, to taking her out EVERY day for several walks (minimum two), making sure they are fed properly and regularly, etc., and have a GOOD place to leave them when you can't take them with you. That said, I'm sure she will reward you and your children with love and affection. One more thing, a puppy can be pretty destructive - get ready for chewed up shoes and toys. And be sure to read a few books about instilling good behavior - they're just like children, you need to be firm and make sure they know how to do a few things like come, sit, don't jump on people, get off the couch, etc. And I'm so glad you may be getting this puppy from the Humane Society - so many dogs need a home, I believe it is the best way to get a pet.


answers from Boston on

Black labs are extremely social and very good family dogs. They are rambunctious by nature, but if yours is calm (at the moment!) that might be a good thing. They are pretty hardy so there's not usually a big problem with a toddler falls on top of them!

That said, you need to understand that you will now be housebreaking a dog in the dead of winter. Not the best timing. Figure out how you will take your dog outside at the first sign of peeing on the rug, since you will not have time to get your kids into coats and hats and mittens, and they are too little to leave inside alone! Puppies take a while to figure out how to "go" outside, so you need to spend a lot of time being patient while they sniff around, grab sticks, chase squirrels, and do everything EXCEPT what they are there for! And there's nothing more chaotic than having a 3 year old on the potty, a toddler with a full diaper, and a puppy with a full bladder! It's pouring rain, it's dark out, and the crazy dog needs to go out NOW.

A fenced yard is a good thing, but you can't leave them out there forever, and you still need to go out and pick up poop if anyone else is going to use the yard. (It's also a law in most towns, even if the poop is on your own property - it gets into the water table eventually and that's a bad thing.) The bitter cold weather is tough on puppies. Also, if you live in an area with woods, you have to worry about coyotes. I have a small terrier and the animal control officer told me to NEVER leave her outside no matter what. It's not as much of an issue when a lab is full grown, but still, the coyotes travel in packs and can work together to bring down a dog - our neighbors lost a small-ish lab this way. Heartbreaking.

I know how incredibly wonderful it is to look at a sweet puppy and know that you are rescuing one from the humane society. However, I have to say that you are better off making some sort of adjustment. First of all, someone else with older kids will scoop that puppy up quickly. Secondly, you will be better off if both your children are potty trained so you only have to train a dog! Or, you can rescue an older dog - even a 1 year old animal has had some housebreaking training, and they only need to learn which door to go to in your house. They have bigger bladders and can last a long longer! And they are past the chewing/teething stage. They're slightly less adoptable so you will be doing a greater kindness in choosing one. Finally, getting a puppy in the spring or summer is much much easier - it's more pleasant to be outside at 5 am or midnight (for you and the dog!), the days are longer, and the kids can be outside too.

Think also about dog hair and vacuuming! You will need to have a crate for the dog so it has a place to go to get away from the kids (it needs a break and it needs to nap) and so you can contain it as necessary. Puppies chew a lot so you can't leave it loose when you are not home or not able to watch it. Kids leave shoes and toys out, and the puppy sees them and says "Wow! That's all for ME?!?!!?" Little kids LOVE to play in the doggy's water dish too!

I would suggest you go to the local library and get a good video on dog training as well as a couple of books on the subject. Figure out how you're going to manage everything, and make a good choice.

Understand that I am an unrepentant dog lover - my terrier even sleeps with us (a huge "No-No" but she's 13 now and my husband wants her close to us! We love her terribly, but I'm telling you it is still a huge pain to go out in bad weather and watch her try to pee when the snow and ice are getting up between the pads of her feet and making her limp! Then I come inside and have to dry off 6 feet (my 2 and her 4) before she walks all over the house! So I want you to know what you're in for, and suggest that you either adjust the timing or the age of the dog.

Sadly, there will always be dogs that need rescuing - but that's also something that will work in your favor.

Good luck whatever you decide!



answers from Boston on

Well, after reading all that really great advice and if you still think you want to give it a go, think about this - when housebreaking, if you catch the puppy right in the middle of peeing on your carpeting, you immediately pick it up and run outside with it. Any idea how you would do that with 2 toddlers? Lol. If you can't bring that puppy out at a moment's notice or when housebreaking (forget papertraining, a unnecessary extra step that will just prolong housebreaking) take the puppy out every couple of hours, then you're really not in a good position to have a puppy right now. Not to mention taking him for a good walk at least a couple of times a day. How are you going to do that with 2 little ones?

Maybe when your children are a bit older. I'd say when they are in school is a great time. They will still be able to grow up with the dog, but someone said having a puppy is like having a toddler and they're right.

Ok, so if you still want to go ahead and adopt him, email me. I'm a pet-sitter and maybe can help you out when you need some help. Lol.



answers from Boston on

Having a puppy is like having another toddler. They need lots of excersice, attention and proper training. We have Labs on both sides of the family. Out of the two youngest - one is pretty calm and the other is quite hyper. Like children when training everyone needs to be on the same page with the rules. I would suggest some training classes for you (since you'll be the main care giver) and your new puppy. Labs have short hair but do shed quite a bit. If you can't give this puppy a good amount of attention and play time - I'd wait.



answers from Providence on

Hi J.

We got a rescue puppy (5 month old beagle mix) for my daughter's 2nd birthday last January. We thought she might be too young, but we brought her to visit the puppy a few times before we finally brought Duncan home.

It has been great for Katy. She helps me feed him daily. Plays with him in the yard (fenced in).

Basically, don't let the "mellow" lab mix fool you. Chances are once he settles into a home setting, he may become a bit more full of puppy energy.

If you do adopt. Your life will be much easier if you go to a puppy training class. It will make your puppy more a part of the family. Also, I was very against crating my dog. However, once I was talked into it, I would highly recommend it. You don't have to worry about having the puppy getting into things and potentially getting hurt overnight and as he gets used to being in the crate, it will become his safety zone.

The worst part is housebreaking. It is especially tough in the cold weather as you're going to be outside giving praise for correct potty behavior.

A doggie family member is alot of work...but worth every bit of it!

Things to consider (vet, doggie proof your home (your child's toys will become fair game if left on the floor), license, training (they do have services that come to your home and train and they are not much more expensive than a class...a class gives your puppy socialization skills if he is going to be around other dogs).

Best of luck to you. A puppy is a great addition to your family. PS. you may want to hold off until after Christmas if you have a tree up as it's just a big shiny toy for the puppy.



answers from Boston on

With two small children I would adopt a younger adult dog. Of course at 8 weeks she calm she's a baby at that age they do a lot of sleeping but just wait until she's more active she'll be nipping the kids, chewing everything, running around, getting into trouble. I've had a lot of puppies in my life and the next time we get another dog it will be one that is a young adult not a pup.



answers from Boston on

I recommend the book _Good Owners, Great Dogs_ by Brian Kilcommons. Read the book BEFORE you adopt a dog. In the book he talks about how to pick out a puppy. He also gives good training advice and there are amusing stories scattered throughout the book.

In the meantime, I would HIGHLY recommend waiting until your children are older, or at least until spring.

We adopted a black lab when my younger son (second child) was a toddler. We picked her because she was the calmest and sweetest puppy in the litter. Whoa! First impressions can be deceiving! She was anything but calm. And trying to train a puppy with small children in the house was almost impossible. (And I lived in San Diego!!) Especially if you have no experience. I had no experience and no time to train the dog and my husband was never home. In the end we did a terrible job training her and she ended up biting my children and we had to find a new home for her. Later, when my youngest was five or six, we adopted a puppy (shepherd/collie mix) and things went SOOOO much better. We did, however, learn from our previous mistakes and hired a dog trainer - mostly to train US to train the dog. He was a wonderful, well-behaved companion.

Good luck to you. Would love to know how it all turns out. :D



answers from Boston on

Hi J.,
You are so smart to post this question before you get a puppy. I'm guessing you were prepared for the answers you have gotten so far.

-I agree with everyone here that house training puppies to in the winter has to be the have to spend a lot of time outside at all hours of the day or night.
-My puppy chewed things randomly for 2 years. I won't go into the things that we had to replace.
-A good dog needs exercise. I mean that in order for a dog to be in the house alone or in the yard, calm, not digging, tearing up toys, play biting at your kids the dog will need to be walked at least twice a day, every single day (rain, sleet, snow or sweltering weather). Labs can go for miles.
-Puppies are adorable. I had always wanted one (growing up my parents always got adult dogs) and once in my first home with my new husband it was the first thing we did. We now have a 7 year old black lab/hound mix who is a wonderful pet to have in our home and good with our 23 mos. old son. However, I now know that he was my last puppy, I'll always go for the older dog.

I wish you all the best with your decision. Dogs are so much fun and a great part of a family.




answers from Boston on

A dog is a very big responsibility - especially a lab. Some lap dogs are a piece of cake, but labs can be quite excitable, need a lot of running time and want to be with you. I can't leave mine alone in the yard, she just cries. If we're in the yard with her, ok. So, three walks a day, plus the expenses: food and most importantly the vet - monthly heartworm pills, flea & tick, annual check up and shots, lots of brushing.

I'm not trying to talk you out of it. We love our dog (she's 10 now), but just so you know, it's a time and money commitment. Also, be careful, b/c labs are excitable - my daughter can yank on my dogs tail and she could care less - but some dogs (especially puppies) will nip, and with two toddlers, some tail-yanking is likely. Our dog likes to start barking, a lot, right after DD falls asleep for a nap - which can take me an hour to get her down. That's a little annoying : )

Maybe wait until their older so they can help or be prepared to be outside in the dark at 6:00 am walking the dog in the rain or cold waiting for it to poop, like I just did. Just a reality check.

On the other hand, the kids will adore rolling on the floor and playing ball and cuddling and petting the pup; and it's great to have a dog at your feet while you're watching tv or beside the bed while you're sleeping. It's a tough decision. Good luck.



answers from Boston on

HI J.,

You will be adding a third baby!! I recommend that you do NOT get a puppy in the winter!!! Unless your ready to train a new baby in the very cold weather. Its cold mornings, every few hours of out side pee pee time. Training your puppy that he/she is last in a pack can be hard when you have babies! I found it very hard because of the winter, having young children like yours. They do cry sometimes all night when you first bring them home. I am a huge dog lover, I have had mine now for 9 years. She will also be my last dog. I have found she was a lot of work and very expensive when she needed shots or got sick. I wish you luck and patience!!




answers from Hartford on

Hi J.,
First thing, you should make sure the humane society will even adopt to you. Most shelters will not let people with small children adopt. We couldn't even rescue a cat when my son was 3! We decided to wait a while for a dog and got one last year when my son was almost 7. I'm glad we waited. Our puppy was like having another child! I had to leave my part-time job and stay home with him! It was a trying year, but well worth it now! My son is the perfect age to help take care of our dog. He walks him, feeds him and is a huge help.
I would suggest waiting until at least your littlest is 4, but that's just me.
Good luck with whatever you choose,
E. K.



answers from Boston on

I love dogs and I have a six year old female black lab who is a great dog. I have two sons, three and 15 months old. My boys love the dog and I'm glad they are growing up with a pet. However, the puppy stage is really demanding. If it were me, I'd wait until the kids are older before getting a puppy. But that's just me and I work so my opinion is being colored by my situation.

A fenced in yard is great but labs are really social and don't like to hang outside solo. They are working dogs and they need lots of exercise - more than just wandering around in the yard. I found the dog training classes at the MSPCA in Methuen were great and I highly recommend going to training if you're getting a lab or any dog. People will like your dog if he is a well-behaved pet. And for the kids sake too, you need to have good control over the dog. Also, my lab sheds like crazy so get ready to vacuum/swiffer really often.

Whatever you decide, best of luck! I really do love having a lab, they're awesome family dogs.



answers from Boston on

Having a new puppy with 2 very young children is going to be a TON of work. We had 2 dogs (Siberian Husky and German Shephard) when I got pregnant with my daughter. At the time my dogs were 6 and 7 years old. I could not believe how much work my dogs seemed to be once I brought home a new baby. They were very, very good with our children because when they were puppies we messed with their feet, pulled on their ears and tails knowing we would one day have children. My german shephard cost a ton of money. Loved her so much but she was really, really sick when we first got her and took almost a year of vet visits and a lot of money to get her well. Then when she was 5 yrs old she was running in the back yard and fell and tore her ACL (yes just like a humans) and had to have extensive surgery ($1,600 + pain meds) and 4 months of recovery. 3 years later she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, we tried to treat it with a lumpectomy ($1,000 + pain meds) but it was to fast moving. At 8 years old we had to make the horrible decision to put her to sleep. We still miss her every day. My son was only a year old when we lost her but my daughter was 3 and she still wonders where she is and asks about her. My husky is pretty vet proof, she never has any problems but just a yearly check-up is around $100.00 and frontline and heartguard pills cost around $100.00 every 3-4 months. Plus don't forget every time you want to go somewhere overnight and can't bring along your dog you will have to find and pay for a pet sitter or take them to a kennel. Having a dog is wonderful but also a really big commitment. Like someone else said maybe think about getting an older, already potty trained, out of the biting, chewing stage dog might be a good first choice. A dog that is 3-4 years old and good with kids would be a great first time dog. I just think that getting a new puppy is going to be very tiring and more work than you could ever imagine. Also labs are very high strung. My sister almost had to get rid of her 3 year old lab when he would not accept her new baby girl when she brought her home. He growled at her and took snaps at her. They kept them seperate as much as possible and had to watch the 2 of them constantly. It wasn't until she started crawling that he realized that she was another family member and settled down. They get along great now but it was touch and go for awhile there. I know this all sounds really negative but even with all of this I would never trade away my dog and I would give everything and pay anything to have my shephard back with us. My sister and her kids love their dog and also would never trade him away. If you can find the right balance they are a wonderful addition to the family. Good luck with your decision. Hope everything works out for you.



answers from Boston on

How attached are you to your furniture? My understanding is that puppies chew on table and sofa legs. So that is another thing to consider.

Hard decision! My husband has been working me over for YEARS. He's the one that is neurotic about the house though, so I don't see how he could possibly adjust to a dog ruining his furniture, he doesn't even let kids sit on the sofa when coming directly from outside. haha.


answers from Hartford on

I have a chocolate lab, it is crazy. I love her to death but with kids it is hard. As a puppy you need to bring them outside a lot and in the winter it is cold and even harder because you are not out there as much. Also, they pee on the floor and kids run through it. I am not sure if I would do it again when they are so little.
The plus side the puppy will be used to kids climbing all over them and they can grow up together. If you are up for the work of a puppy, then go for it!

M. - SAHM of thee and WAHM and lovin it!



answers from Barnstable on

AHH....don't do it! I have a 3 year old and a 19 month old too. We got our puppy just after we got married and 4 months later I was pregnant. The dog was definitely a stress for me (black lab as well), mostly b/c I couldn't give the dog the attention she deserved. Looking back, I almost think it wasn't fair to the dog. Even now with 2 active toddlers, it's not as bad..., but coming home to trash all over the floor after a long day of work (and trying to keep my kids away from the mess...or a kids favorite toy gets chewed up, just adds extra stress. Also, it's hard for me to go on walk with both kids as it is, so I stopped bringing the dog....makes me sad to leave her home whining. So, ultimately, I just don't think it's fair to the animal. I think if you wait a little while longer when the kids are a couple years older and you can use the dog as a teaching tool (responsibility, etc), that's best. The kids will learn more and the dog with get the attention he/she deserves.

In the meantime, (if you disregard my advice), if it's any is pretty cool to see the kids playing with the dog and have the dog as part of the family. She is taming down (after 4 years!), but she just loves being a part of the family.


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