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Who is going to be responsible for taking care of it?
While both of you may be excited at the prospect of a getting a puppy, taking care of it will be no small task.
“Caring for a puppy means time and financial commitment and takes more than plopping food in a bowl and cuddle sessions,” says Amy Shojai, certified animal behavior consultant, author of 26 best-selling pet books and About.com's Puppie Guide.
“Potty training, socialization, grooming and rules of the house require consistency and routine on a set schedule, or everyone ends up frustrated by the poor result.”
Do we both realize it is a cute puppy for a short time but a dog for the rest of its life?
Your pup won’t be so cute and little for long! Make sure you’re committing to the dog days, too.
“Technically a puppy isn’t fully mature until 12-18 months, and small breeds mature more quickly,” says Shojai. “Pups quickly grow beyond the cute stage and often become juvenile delinquent dogs and can be tough to manage. You can expect a healthy, well-cared-for dog to live 9-12 years (for big dogs) or even into their late teens for some small dogs.”
That's a long commitment.
What would happen to the dog if we broke up?
You don’t want to think about it, but for the sake of the puppy, consider what would happen if the two of you split.
“Dogs are social creatures and form strong bonds with their family group -- and that’s whoever spends time and attention with the new puppy,” says Shojai. “Set up guidelines to be sure everyone -- both the humans involved and the puppy -- suffer the least amount of potential hurt if the worst happens. If you both love the puppy, perhaps a time-share could work out, or allow for visitation.”
Are we doing this to see what it’s like to be parents? Am I expecting this will lead to us having a baby?
A puppy can be lovable but if it’s a bambino you really want, then take pause.
“Puppies can be a good test to see if you can put up with cleaning poopy puppy messes, and figure out how to communicate with nonverbal creatures, but they’re more like perpetual toddlers than infants,” says Shojai. “Choose to have a puppy because you want the dog for him/herself, not as a surrogate test -- because that little furry creature isn’t a trial run for love and affection to be traded in.”
Do we both want this equally?
“Couples who adopt pets together can share the joy of caring for and loving the new pup, but an unequal commitment can lead to resentment or even jealousy,” says Shojai. “Asking and answering these questions honestly before adopting the puppy can head off potential problems.”
Both of you will be affected by the addition of an animal so make sure you’re both really on board!
Are we ready to have a living thing that binds us together?
A puppy isn’t like a piece of furniture you might fight over -- it’s a living thing that forms fierce attachments.
Are we ready to slow down our nightlife in order to come home and walk a dog?
If you’re not ready to leave a dinner party to take care of your dog, reconsider whether adding a puppy to your life really makes sense.
“It is not a crime to secure a pet-sitter,” says Pia Salk, PSY.D., a psychologist and spokesperson for Adopt-A-Pet.com. “But never test your pup’s fear of abandonment and bladder control. Then you are unfairly asking Fido to take the hit for demands you knowingly agreed to accommodate.”
Are we getting the dog to compensate for something that’s missing in the relationship?
“Enrolling a third player, as a means of compensating for deficits in a relationship is not only unhealthy for a couple but it is unfair to the animal who is now saddled with this burden,” says Salk. “For the couple, it is a very maladaptive means of addressing relationship issues.”
A puppy might momentarily mend rifts in your relationship, but ultimately his cuteness can’t be the only thing that keeps you together.
What is the usual dynamic between us as a couple when we are problem-solving?
Do you and your partner work well together under pressure? Having a puppy will require you to tackle some pretty stressful situations.
“It is critical that the history of problem-solving, and any deficits in this arena, be allowed to exist apart from the impact they have on the puppy’s welfare,” says Salk. “It is imperative that the animal’s life is secure apart from any degree of health that these dynamics ultimately represent.”
Can our work/travel schedules really accommodate an animal?
You're going to have to scale back on your jet-set lives -- or find ways to accommodate your pup when you must travel or work late.
And if you are getting the dog from a breeder, “It’s important to note that the needs of a puppy are drastically different from those of an adult dog, kitten, cat or other kind of pet,” says Salk.
Do we agree on discipline vs. treating the puppy like a baby?
Puppies need boundaries. And disciplining your pet is really the kind thing to do.
“One of the biggest mistakes new pet parents make is treating their puppy like a child,” says Steven May, pet expert and co-author of What About Wally: Co-Parenting a Pet with Your Ex. “When they do, the result is usually a puppy that grows in to a dog with no boundaries or discipline. I’m a big proponent of puppy classes after all shots have been completed. What’s important to remember is training isn’t as much for the puppy as it is for the owner.”
Are we looking for an accessory or a loyal companion?
Don’t get a puppy because you think she’ll look adorable/ridiculous in your Louis Vuitton handbag. Make sure you’re in it for the long haul.
“Dogs aren’t consumer products,” says May. “If it doesn’t work you can’t just take it back to where you bought it. Our shelters are filled with animals that have been discarded by people who don’t understand the 24-hour responsibility that comes with pet ownership. But for those who do their research, match the breed with their lifestyle, commit to training and fulfill their pet’s needs, they’ll enjoy the kind of companionship, love and unbreakable bond that is specific to being a pet parent.”
Is the pet his, mine or ours?
Decide in advance who the primary pet parent will be and make sure you and your partner discuss who will handle specific responsibilities.
“When a couple brings a pet in to the relationship it is theirs together and co-pet parenting is a must,” says May. “If he doesn’t have a problem with Fido jumping on the couch but she does, the result will be a dog that is confused about what’s right and wrong which can lead to other behavioral problems.”
“It is critical to designate one primary caretaker willing to commit to the needs of the puppy, apart from any other competing demands,” says Dr. Salk. “While both can be ‘parents’ for the pet -- it is essential that the animal’s fate not hang in the balance.”
Can our home accommodate a pup?
Shoes and rugs can and most likely will be ruined or soiled by your puppy at some point, so make sure you’re ok with that first.
“Most all homes can accommodate a puppy,” says May. “Just like it is prior to the arrival of a baby, future pet parents must make sure to puppy-proof their home. Puppies are curious by nature and if they can put their mouths on something they will. This means tying back all electrical cords, removing any potentially toxic plants, keeping lids secured on trash cans and making sure all cleaning supplies are locked away. This is also where training comes into play. A puppy needs to learn that Daddy’s new leather jacket isn’t the right toy to play with.”
Can we handle the living expenses (hello, vet bills) for a puppy?
“Owning a pet comes with expenses beyond just food and toys,” says May. “Boarding and particularly medical care can become costly. I suggest a written agreement between both parties prior to bringing a new pet in to their lives that addresses the financial, medical and any potential shared situation that may occur.”
“Couples bringing a pet in to their lives need to understand that it is a team effort and it can either bring couples closer together or, sometimes, create tension that drives them apart. But what can’t be forgotten is that the pet loves both its parents. And by working together as a team everyone will benefit.”