I love dogs and I think everyone can benefit from having a dog in their family. Especially kids.
But the reality is a dog isn’t for everyone (aside from allergies and just a dislike of dogs and animals).
I think over the years, even mass media has shared the many benefits of having a dog.
Lower blood pressure. Better immune system. More calm + less stress. Just overall well-being.
If you are depressed or prone to it, having a dog is great!
So why would I advocate not getting a dog? Or at least the times when not to?
Let’s look at when people tend to get dogs.
Christmas. Valentine’s. Chinese Year of the Dog. Summer. Death of a spouse. Grown children leaving the family home (empty nest syndrome). Death of a dog/pet. On a whim. Crumbling under insistent pleas from children (and their equally insistent promises to care for the dog). Some other major life event.
I am not saying these are NOT good times to get a dog, if you are prepared.
Unprepared for the major changes that are about to shed all over your house, poop inside, demand you exercising, etc is tough for a happy union.
Getting a dog is adding another member to your family and household. They are sentient living creatures who need your attention, love, and care. Puppies need to be toilet-trained and well, trained. Even adult dogs can do with a refresher (which is also great for bonding). Even an “easy” dog requires time to adjust to your lifestyle and schedule. Adding a second/third/etc dog can take time for the hierarchy to naturally play out.
I have to say that having my dogs has made a huge difference in transitioning through a separation for me. They shift the focus from what’s falling apart to what’s good in my life. I am out first thing in the morning walking them and spend time out in the sun walking them throughout the day. Their antics have kept humour in my life, where sadness and depression could easily have dominated.
Having said that, I wouldn’t really suggest someone getting a dog just to survive a major life event.
Especially if it’s your first dog or your first dog in many years.
It takes a lot of time, commitment, and energy having a dog. When you are going through something major, where your life is changing, and hasn’t quite “settled” into a new routine or a new incarnation, making a new long-life commitment may not be what is best for you, or your new companion. You may be better off utilizing what energy you do have to focus on healing. On re-discovering yourself. On finding what makes you happy. What you want.
You may decide that packing up the house and travelling around the world is what your heart truly desires.
Or you want to paint the town red.
Having a dog doesn’t fit so easily in these plans.
So – when not to get a dog? When you are not being honest with what your needs are and how they can be met. When you just don’t have the bandwidth. When you go on someone else’s promise. When you are in flux.
Having a dog is not a temporary fix to appease or please yourself, your kids, or a loved one.
It is a big decision and not one to be taken lightly. And not one to be made on someone else’s behalf. Please don’t give a dog as a gift. As romantic as it may seem for your honey to open a box to a smiling puppy face, the reality of dog “ownership” is a little different.
Dogs need walks, hugs, play, sustenance, companionship…