We are thinking of getting a dog, but have no previous experience. Can anyone chat practicalities with me?

(44 Posts)

Here's the situation: I have always wanted a dog, and DH is keen as well. We have no children at the moment, although we are TTC. I am at home full time, DH works full time. We own our own home, with a sizeable secure back garden. We are both very active (running, cycling, walking) and happy to exercise a dog for several hours a day - in fact that's one of the things we'd look forward to.

We are seriously looking at applying to rehome a failed guide dog. I know this won't necessarily be successful, but want to figure out everything we need to know first. I would hate to let a dog down by sending it back, and want to be sure we have a realistic picture of what we're committing to: good and bad.

Here are the things we're apprehensive of:

-Dog plus starting a family. A part of me thinks it's the best thing to get a dog now and get it settled, trained and happy before children turn up, rather than attempting to do it with little ones in the picture. However, I don't know whether this is a good idea. If anyone has experience of this, I would love to hear it.

-If we are successful in starting a family, can we cope with a dog and (potentially) a small child too? Will the dog be unhappy about a new arrival? Will it be safe with it?

-Logistics. We are prepared to give a dog the care and time it needs, and don't have many commitments that mean spending time away. However, we do occasionally visit with family and friends. Can you take a dog with you on overnight stays? Are they happy to sleep in other houses? Or do you need to return home/arrange daycare or a dogsitter?

-Costs. These shouldn't be an issue per se, but we'd like to know roughly what we're looking at per month for food, insurance etc

And finally: the good stuff smile

When I write down all the cons it spooks me a bit, and all I can think for 'pros' is that . . . we'd just love to have a dog. If anyone wants to talk me into this, please do grin

It'd be really helpful to have any advice - thanks in advance!

JadeJ123 Mon 25-Aug-14 12:26:05

Insurance- my dogs have pet plan lifetime insurance which for one is £96 a month, but highly recommend pet plan
Cost to get jabs, food.
Some dogs don't always like having a child in the house.
How long will the dog be left?
Cost of buying everything for the dog.
Walking the dog in all weather 365 days a year.
But they are very good companionship and good protectors.

JadeJ123 Mon 25-Aug-14 12:26:41

Oh food- I feed raw meat diet which is about £35 a week.

MrsPnut Mon 25-Aug-14 12:33:49

If we go to stay with family or friends then the dog comes with us - we take her bed and she manages perfectly well in strange houses.
If we are going on holiday then we either take her to the lady that boards dogs in her home or she goes to stay with a relative (and has 2 hour walks on the beach twice a day) or we rent a cottage in the UK and take her with us.

Without knowing the dog, you can't tell whether they will be safe with a child but if you are sensible and keep them apart unless closely supervised and allow the dog somewhere to escape to if it feels threatened then there is no reason why they can't all get along.
Food, we buy dried food in bulk and a large sack lasts about a month.

Our dog is really calm and can be taken anywhere, she spent yesterday afternoon snoozing under the table in our local pub's garden whilst we were watching some bands. She got loads of fuss from everyone around us!

Thanks, that's all useful to know.

Jade, I read that you shouldn't leave a dog for more than 4 hours on its own in a day, so kind of prepared that that won't be an option. As what work I do is done at home, I'd be anticipating being around all day most days. However, we were wondering whether it's going to be possible to do things like go out in the evening for a meal (2-3 hours), not massively regularly but occasionally (we probably do this once a fortnight or so ATM, though that would naturally drop off if we have a kid).

Mrs, that's very encouraging. I didn't know whether it was reasonable to expect that the dog might be able to sleep at others' houses. I suppose this would depend on the dog, but it's good to know it's a possibility.

How much does your lady who boards dogs charge, out of interest?

JadeJ123 Mon 25-Aug-14 13:18:08

Yeah, 2-3 hours by itself will be fine.

tabulahrasa Mon 25-Aug-14 13:25:44

Dogs and children...most dogs are great with children, they really are, it's just that you don't get people raving about it all the time so it gives you skewed view of it - a bit like all other adults being potential paedophiles.

I'd either do it now or wait until you're past the newborn baby stage as yes a new dog and a new baby would be a bit full on, an existing dog is perfectly do-able with a baby bar a bit of walking around about giving birth time. (but there'd be nothing stopping DH doing it then).

You just do sensible things like take the dog with you if you need to leave the baby in a room and once the baby is mobile don't let it harass the dog.

Leaving them...most dogs are fine staying away with you overnight, obviously if you're going somewhere they're not welcome you have to arrange something else. Going out for dinner or whatever shouldn't be an issue, well exercised dogs sleep quite a lot, unless you get one with issues or a puppy, they'll just sleep till you come back.

Costs very much depend on size and/or breed of dog, the bigger they are the more it costs to feed and run them, lol.

Thanks tabula, that all sounds very sensible.

I Googled 'dog before or after children' and got some very extreme views shock

But a lot of the people who said they wish they'd never got their dog before they had children seemed to have got the dog as an interim child substitute: lots about dressing dogs up, throwing parties for them, making them cakes etc, then losing affection for them when kids came along.

I like animals (grew up with farm ones) and am under no illusion that an animal, however loved, is still an animal and not a child.

ffallada Mon 25-Aug-14 14:01:09

I think if you go for a failed guide dog you should bypass many of the problems that new dog owners face - so that's a really good decision for a first time dog owner.
Some things you might want to think about - a lab is likely to be food orientated and any food you have will disappear behind your back. I grew up with a rescue lab who would rip apart coats, bags and even sealed tins to get to the food inside. When you think you have securely hidden all the food in your house someone will come to visit and bring food with them. You, being a responsible dog owner, will ask if they have any food and explain why. They will have forgotten about the half eaten kitkat at the bottom of their bag they were saving for a rainy day. You will end up having to buy them a new bag. blush THis will happen many many times.

You will being to instinctively remove anything tail height away as the carnage a happy lab can do is amazing! This will make you look very odd when visiting other peoples houses.

A lab will shed hairs like you wouldn't believe. If you don't like hovering now you will hate it after six months. You could brush a lab twice a day and still find your lovely sofa dog covered. You will end up keeping one of those sticky roller thingys by the door to de-fur you and your guests before you leave the house. Again, this will make you look odd.

I am pregnant and trying to prepare our dog for the arrival of a baby, so I don't know how easy or difficult its going to be - I can say its expensive.

From the books, to the plug in pheromone diffusers to calm the dog, extra dog training sessions, the travel system easy to push with one hand so the other can deal with dog, the bigger car to accommodate child and dog, the new £20 food dispenser so he takes longer to eat, the larger cage so he has a safe place to hide from child - all in I have not spend a lot on the child but a lot on the dog blush

Also, I am not having a great pregnancy, so the excellent routine my DH and I had to give the dog 2 hrs of exercise a day has gone to pot as I have no energy. Luckily DH's job is flexible and he is able to take the strain, as well as employing the odd dog walker. We have a dog that cannot do without exercise.

If you and your DH can commit to that then definitely go for it smile

tabulahrasa Mon 25-Aug-14 14:08:21

I had dogs first, then children...I've often said I should have just had more dogs, lol.

Yes sometimes time was at a premium and I really resented having to spend the only free half hour I had that evening walking the dog, but on the flipside sometimes I was literally waiting by the door with the dog for my DP to come in so we could escape the DC, lol.

There are always nightmare days where the dog does something like roll in fox poo while you're on a walk dealing with a tantrummy toddler and then while you're washing the dog the toddler takes advantage and gets in the felt tip pen drawer...but I think you get days like that without dogs.

Mostly when my DC were young, them and the dog entertained each other, which meant I didn't have to, lol, many a morning I've spent sitting in the garden drinking coffee while a small child threw a ball for the dog.

Dogs are also great for clearing the floor after a child has eaten.

There are definite positives for having them at the same time, yes you have to be aware of things like children are terrible for harassing dogs and dogs really only have teeth as a defense, but it's just something you keep in mind without needing to really think about mostly.

I've never felt differently about pets after having children, they are two completely different things.

Isthatwhatdemonsdo Mon 25-Aug-14 14:09:33

My children are now 16 and 21 we got our first dog two years ago and second dog in April this year. I would not have had a puppy when my kids were small.
You sound like you've done lots of research and I would say go for it.

MrsPnut Mon 25-Aug-14 14:30:33

Our boarding lady charges £10 per day or part of a day.

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 25-Aug-14 15:05:06

Everyone else has covered most of the points. Being geographically close to guide dogs national headquarters and knowing a few people who work there I am aware that 'failed' guide dogs are few and far between and the few that there are have a huge waiting list for them. Most people who end up with them are their puppy walkers.

Owllady Mon 25-Aug-14 15:15:44

* had dogs first, then children...I've often said I should have just had more dogs, lol.*

Are you me? grin

I had one of mine pre dd and I can't remember even worrying about it, I just bought her home from hospital, the dog sniffed her and that was it! Then I had another baby quite soon after, then another dog blush I have never remembered anything awful happening with children/dogs at all. Maybe we are just sensible anyway? I'm not sure. It's really not rocket science though.

I had another child and another dog btw. I used to tie them to the pram when mine were little and go a walk that way but even now, my dd is severely disabled (teenager) and we still manage to walk the dog. I just make sure she's walked more when they are at school, then in the holidays we go to park/shorter walk and then she has one when dh gets home

The only thing I would say is don't have a dog on a short term plan as they live a long time, I have had one live until 18 for example. So don't just think about your life now but how it might be in 10-15 years time too

mrslaughan Mon 25-Aug-14 15:19:59

I am not sure if anyone mentioned this, but its just what you do in bad weather, what I mean is it has rained cats and dogs today all day......ddog still needs a walk, Dd is sick (something viral, but has trigged v bad asthma)...luckily its a public holiday so dh is at home, so I just took Ddog, but tomorrow is not so easy - given he will be back at work and it is still school holidays. I will probably organise our walker to take him out first thing, and then we will do shorter ones later.....but this is obv something you need to budget on.

mrslaughan Mon 25-Aug-14 15:23:03

oh and we got our dog as a 4 1/2 month old, and that was great, he was toilet, crate trained, wasn't too bitey or chewy, but still v puppyish. There were v good reasons he came to us at this age, and we knew he had been well socialised and he had started his training etc

theeternalstudent Mon 25-Aug-14 15:26:48

There are always nightmare days where the dog does something like roll in fox poo while you're on a walk dealing with a tantrummy toddler and then while you're washing the dog the toddler takes advantage and gets in the felt tip pen drawer...but I think you get days like that without dogs.
Yes to this grin

I got rescue dog first and she was with me for around 6 years before having DD. As our dog was a little bit older by the time I had DD and she didn't really have a lot of patience with DD. Cue lots of shouting at DD to leave the dog alone. Getting the dog around the same time as having DD would have been better and I'm not sure I would have a rescue dog and young child again.

However, on the whole it has worked out fantastically and now DD and the dog are great together.

I wouldn't be without a dog now.

These are great responses, thanks once again.

Lone, yes, we'll be lucky to get a failed guide dog smile. Having looked at the Guide Dogs website it doesn't look like they run a waiting list, but a system whereby you apply, and if you haven't been successful in 3 months you reapply. If you're acceptable, they try to match applications with dogs swiftly, so they know all acceptable applications are 'live' (i.e. everyone's circumstances are current, rather than sifting through an old waiting list where people are saying 'yeah, we wanted a dog 3 years ago but now I've got a full time job' etc).

Having read the form, I think we stand a good chance of being acceptable (re outdoor space, work hours, transport, finances etc).

I am hugely nervous though. Owl, it's just what you said: it's at least a decade's commitment. It means I'm saying I won't work full-time until I'm well over 40 shock scary!

That is a good point, mrslaughan. Kids being ill and unable to go out etc. How much do dog-walkers cost?

I have read the reponses to DH and he's found them useful. We've decided to fill the form out tomorrow and send it. Eeek!

Owllady Mon 25-Aug-14 15:46:44

You may not ever want to work full time again anyway (please don't tell the feminist section grin) I done a mixture of ft work, of, study, now as mine are older I am at home again. We have always just made it work for us. The dog is part of your family so you do just naturally make decisions where the dog us considered any way. I know that's alien to people who don't have a dog, but it's how it is smile

ErrolTheDragon Mon 25-Aug-14 15:47:05

Apart from the 'failed guide dog' possibility, do consider other rescues - you have more idea what you're getting then (a good rescue shouldn't give a first-timer a problem dog).

Not all dogs need a long walk every day ... some will refuse to go further than they need to do their business if the weather is bad! Sounds like it won't be a problem for you, but if you want a dog that can do long walks but really doesn't need to, don't choose a lab (my standard dachshund is perfect in this regard, and he doesn't shed much, avoids mud and barely smells.grin)

Re travelling - most dogs are a lot more attached to you than to their home, so it's usually not a problem - take their bed/cage. If you go abroad or to visit people who don't want a dog in the house, if you don't have anyone to look after yours I'd recommend Holidays4Dogs - dog-lovers who look after yours in their home.

Owllady Mon 25-Aug-14 15:48:12

And less of the when I'm 40 lark. I only have 3 years...mind you, I will have a 16 and an 18 yr old the same month I turn 40. I think we will have to have a party shockgrin

grin Owl - at the moment 40 seems like a long way away, but it'll come round in no time I'm sure!

My natural instinct (and DH's) is to be super-cautious, make sure everything is Absolutely Right and there are no downsides before doing something. However, lately I've realised that if you keep your options open forever then you end up with . . . still just options.

No-one can tell us for sure that getting a dog is definitely right/not right: we just have to make the best decision we can.

And, as I pointed out to DH this morning, it can't be any more of a commitment than a baby wink

Thanks for the tips, Errol

ffallada Mon 25-Aug-14 16:19:49

Agreeing with Errol that the choice of dog, should the guide dog thing not work out, is really important.

If you are looking for a beast to run with, cycle with and curl up on the sofa with, you could worse than looking for a rescue spaniel. (Not a working Coker Spaniel as they are worse than collies for high drive).

Dachshunds are great too smile Labradoodles don't shed but can come with a whole host of other issues (a poodle is a great dog, high energy and spirits, labs can have great brains. Cross them and you can get a really bad mix of high energy and brains)

Have you looked into cani-cross in your area? Its a running sport with dogs, where you are attached with a line and a harness. People train together (its great fun) and there are proper races. Its a great way to bond / knacker your dog. Also, if you make contact with your local group they may know of a dog needing rehomed.

BertieBotts Mon 25-Aug-14 16:25:27

I think you should get the dog first and do the training thing before having babies. It would be harder to train a dog when you have kids under 5, I think, which could be a long time if you want 2 or 3 children.

Oooh, that's interesting ffallada. We do Parkrun and I often see people there with dogs on leads clipped to the owner's climbing-style harness.

They garner a few 'Must be cheating' comments. Especially the lady with the greyhound wink

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