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Which Baby First?

Baby and PuppyBaby and PuppyMy girlfriend and i have decided to adopt a puppy in the new year, but as luck would have it my girlfriend is now 2 months pregnant. We also have an 11 year girl old in the house already who really wants a puppy. What i was wondering is would it be better to get a puppy before the baby or after? I hear both sides of the argument. Personally I feel its better before, but that just me. Probably because I also really want a dog. What would you recommend?


Dear G.J.

It depends on energy level. Not really yours though, your girlfriend’s. I’ve found that no matter what promises on bended knee husbands and kids make, ultimately it’s mom that signs the responsibility check for primary care of household pets and at the best of times there is way more care associated with a puppy then maintaining the status quo of an established household pet. Whether an adult dog or a puppy, I tell my clients that if they want to end up with a civilized canine member of the household they need to follow my “2 for 24” rule which translates as; “Through puppy development to young adulthood; when loose, a dog should always be under the direct supervision of someone capable of looking after a 2 year old child for 24 hours.”

Your wife gets an automatic pass on this. An 11 year old girl, probably not. If yours is like most, one second she’ll be attentive but when the phone rings, assuming the pup survives the stampede, it can get into a lot of mischief while she’s learning who currently has a crush on who. That leaves you as your wife’s “2 for 24” back up and you wouldn’t be alone if your wife melts into peels of laughter at the thought. I once thought that diapers for 10 – 15 pounds meant that’s how much the diaper would hold in addition to the baby before it was time for a new diaper.

If you, your wife and soon to be, two children want to have a life time of wonderful memories related to the family dog it takes considerable planning and time and I recommend holding off, way off. Like, minimum two years off. Even assuming you’ve decided on a breed of dog that is a good match for a busy young family, you’ll need to find a reputable breeder which as you may have read in past columns is not as easy as it might seem. It usually takes months to hook up with a good breeder and then a litter. The puppy should be between 7.5 and 8 weeks old when you bring it home and if you want to do the socialization properly you’ll have a very busy month ahead, investing hours in creating your dog’s temperament through proactive true to life socialization. And then there’s the time needed for training which is an ongoing process through to the dog’s young adulthood and for the average dog that’s 2 years of age.

In my view, even more important is considering the reality of the toll pregnancy takes on woman’s physical and mental reserves. Your only 2 months into it. It’s going to become exhausting and feeling guilty because the energy to deal with the holy terror nipping everyone’s ankles just isn’t there, can make a dog a burden instead of a joy. Even if it’s a dream pregnancy once the baby arrives your wife and probably yourself will suffer from a sleep and energy deficit for as much as a couple of years. Sleep deprived moms and dads during a midnight feeding or fussing as a rule aren’t thinking to themselves, “If only we had a dog, our lives would be complete!”

Contrary to the Disney and advertising world’s modeling of the ideal family, a dog is not a mandatory component. If however the time is right a dog can be a wonderful addition. Just don’t forget, as it is with children, so it is with dogs, you’re only going to get out what you put in. Either way, bottom line, I recommend the pregnant lady makes the decision.

– John Wade

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