When we first brought our puppy cocker spaniel home in 2012, he was eight weeks old. We named him Max and we were so excited to have a new addition to our home, which was then only occupied by the hubs and I. We treated him like our first child, we spoilt him rotten and our weekends were dedicated to all-day walks in the country and visits to country pubs where he would get just as fussed by the other punters.
Back then, the hubby worked from home and Max used to sleep under his desk all day, only to be woken for treats and his two walks across our local golf club or through the fields nearby. We spent hours teaching him new tricks and would feed him our leftovers on a daily basis. On Sundays we even used to make him his own roast dinner…we would never leave him alone for longer than four hours and he literally had the run of the house – our bed included.
And then we got married, moved house, the hubby stopped working from home and we HAD A BABY. To say that Max was suddenly pushed to one side is an understatement. Our bed was now out of bounds, dog food became his only diet, and those daily walks that once felt so idyllic suddenly became a HUGE CHORE.
Introducing a new born baby…
It probably didn’t help that Taylor was born in the midst of winter and I remember having to bundle her up every dark morning after another shit night’s sleep and step outside into the pouring rain. Max is not what you’d call a patient kind of dog and as soon as he gets the gist that he’s about to go out for a walk he just stands there barking at you. He doesn’t care if you can’t find the rain cover to the pram or if you’ve had a poonami episode. Trying to push along a buggy with one hand whilst holding onto a lead attached to a wappy dog on the other is not really that much fun…And then mid afternoon comes and you have to do it all again. It’s like a school run every day, only it’s for our four legged furry child.
The challenges of a toddler and a dog
I wish I could say that the dog walks got a lot easier when Taylor started to walk herself, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Of course she refused to get into her buggy which meant that poor Max would probably go 100 meters for every hour we spent out of the house…Other times I simply had to force her into her buggy or Trike, kicking and screaming so that Max could at least have a decent run.
And before you start feeling sorry for Max, let me tell you that it worked both ways. Endless times did I stand pushing Taylor on the swing or helping her up the slide whilst Max sat outside the play area barking his head off at me to leave (despite us walking him for half an hour to get to the park). It all got a little embarrassing.
Before I completely put you off I should probably point out that Max is a working breed and needs a hell of a lot of exercise. And Taylor is a feisty breed who is basically ready to move out at the grand old age of two. I’m sure not every owner of a toddler and family dog has the same experience…
And I can confirm that as our little toddler gets older, life with Max is getting gradually easier again. Dog walks are much more fun now that Taylor can walk at a (relatively) decent pace. And there are honestly lots of other pros too:
1. The love between a child and their dog will make you melt
Every morning Taylor gets so excited about getting Max out of his bed and will often stand in front of him with her arms out saying ‘cuddle!’ This is very different from the baby days when she just used to swipe him and pull at his fur. Max still hasn’t forgotten those days, but he’s gradually getting better now that he’s realised she’s an actual human being who can also feed him food. He has always been so gentle and patient with her and I love the idea of them growing up together.
2. Dogs help kids develop a love of the outdoors
Taylor has always loved being outdoors and I believe that having Max has played a huge part in this. I admit that if we didn’t have a dog to get us out, there are plenty of days that we would’ve spent indoors. She loves going out for dog walks and will often bring me her coat and wellies when she thinks it’s overdue. She’ll also take a day in the garden any day over TV time and loves throwing the ball for Max (or at least trying to).
3. They’re good for kids’ health
It’s been proven that kids with pets are half as likely to develop common allergies and have better immunity to illness than kids who don’t have pets. Family dogs are a healthy addition to any household.
4. They make great play mates and bring the family together…
Without question Taylor finds Max the funniest in our house. Max is often the source of spontaneous play and will bring the family together for a mad half hour whilst we chase him to get back a toy of Taylor’s or a ball we were playing with. When she was younger, Max added a whole new level of fun to blowing bubbles as he would frantically jump and try and catch them all – it was the source of one of Taylor’s earliest uncontrollable giggling sessions…there’s no question that dogs add fun, laughter and love to a family.
So, is it a good idea to have a dog with kids?
I admit that there have been (numerous) times when I’ve resented having a dog over the past two years and it certainly has made some days a lot more challenging than they otherwise would’ve been. If I’d known what I know now, it pains me to admit that we probably wouldn’t have had Max before starting a family, or we would’ve at least considered a lower maintenance breed.
However, having a dog in the family really does bring so much and so many of our memories wouldn’t be the same without Max. I adore watching Taylor and Max together and the bond that is growing between them – and I know this will only grow stronger as they both get older. Dogs definitely complete a family and if your lifestyle can accommodate a dog, they give so much more than they take. Just make sure you do your research and you can dedicate the time that they deserve. And be prepared for the challenging periods – especially with young kids…Not every day will be a walk in the park!
Do you have a family dog? Did you find it a challenge with young children or have you loved every minute?