It’s a silly question, but I think it’s one that many couples debate. Even if the question itself is never explicitly asked out loud, it’s a real consideration for a lot of couples.
And it isn’t always “puppy or baby,” but more often: “Which one should come first?”
If you want a dog and want a baby, chances are you will end up with both at some point. Instead of trying out which should come first, should you simply declare “I want to make my life as difficult as possible” and go for both simultaneously?
What I’ve typically seen (anecdotally) is that couples like to first get a puppy, then have a baby.
It’s just good prep, right?
Let’s examine the merits of all options…
The Argument for Puppy First
Getting a puppy before trying to conceive a child is the route that my wife and I took, but if I’m being completely honest, I’ve second-guessed the decision after the fact.
Puppies and children both come with their own unique sets of challenges, but people will generally agree that raising a puppy is easier than raising a child. Here are some arguments for getting a puppy before having a baby:
1) A puppy typically only gets easier.
A puppy should get easier to the point where you can, hopefully, let it live autonomously aside from feeding it and taking it outside. And we’re only talking about a matter of a year or so – not 18 years.
If you put in the time to train the puppy and teach it some good manners, you’ll be in good shape by the time a baby enters the picture.
2) A baby, on the other hand, arguably never gets “easy” – the challenges simply evolve.
The issues around dealing with a 3 month old child go away, as you’re faced with entirely new challenges with a one year old.
Provided you have the time (biologically speaking), it makes sense to get your puppy to the point of being a mature, well-behaved dog before dealing with the challenges of your first child.
3) Learn to deal with responsibility.
A puppy can be a good way for you and your spouse to learn how to deal with the responsibility of a living being that requires lots of attention and care. Maybe not the same care required by a child, but there are more parallels than you might think.
Constant monitoring so they don’t get into trouble? A regular feeding schedule? Dealing with every poop and pee (really couldn’t come up with a more eloquent way of saying that)?
A puppy requires all of these. It’s a stepping stone.
4) Your child will get to grow up with a dog.
As someone who experienced this first hand (growing up with multiple pets), I think it’s a positive aspect of growing up.
Dogs are fun, and it gives your baby some additional interaction from the very start (provided you’ve done a good job of getting your dog ready for the baby).
The Argument for Baby First
The arguments for having a baby before you get a puppy are pretty compelling:
1) You can spend 100% of your attention on the baby without the distraction of a dog.
As a first time parent, you will have your hands full.
You don’t want to have to worry about taking the dog for a walk, keeping the dog away from your baby and its toys, and whatever other general chaos having a dog involves.
By keeping a puppy out of the picture, you’ll have more time to dedicate to caring for the safety and general well-being of your child.
And you won’t be left with a dog who feels neglected (trust me, dogs can feel neglect and jealousy).
2) By having a baby first, you have more control over the situation.
By “more control,” what I mean is you can wait to get a puppy until your child is a little older and less susceptible to being harmed by the dog (this is a fear of many parents with dogs and babies).
And once you do get a dog, you can establish boundaries early and often.
Instead of a dog who is used to having a full run of the house before a baby comes along, you introduce the dog once clear boundaries have already been established.
3) You have the opportunity to teach your child about responsibility.
If you wait long enough (i.e. when your child is older and more independent), you can even involve your child in the dog care.
Dogs are a great way to introduce kids to responsibility – such as having to feed the dog, clean up after the dog, or take it on walks. As an added bonus, this takes some of the dog care work off your plate!
4) Give your child the fun experience of having a puppy.
Puppies are cute and they’re a lot of fun, once you get comfortable with all the extra work involved. If you have a puppy before your child is born, they will never get to experience the fun of having a puppy because the puppy will be an adult dog by the time your child is old enough to appreciate it.
If you wait until child your is a bit older, you get to share that fun with them.
The (Insane) Argument for Getting a Puppy and Having a Baby at the Same Time
Don’t do it. Did you expect me to have a good argument here?
If you’re forcing me to argue for this option, I guess all I can say is that you’ll have a lot of exciting moments. You better have a spouse who is willing to do a lot of heavy lifting along side of you, because it’ll be quite a challenge to care for both without neglecting one.
And on the plus side, if you can accomplish this feat, you’re set to tackle whatever other challenges life throws your way (such as a second child). Other people might think you’re crazy, but you can view it as a proud accomplishment.
The Argument for Having Neither
What the hell are you doing here if you don’t want a dog or a baby?
The argument for having neither is simple: life remains pretty easy (assuming you have no other major obstacles to overcome).
If you travel a lot, and don’t consider yourself the type of person who wants to take the time and effort needed to raise and care for another being, you might consider not getting a puppy or having baby.
But if you’re willing – it’s worth the extra trouble.
So, what to do now?
I think there’s a strong argument for either of the first two options above, but if I could do everything over again, I would probably wait to get a puppy until after having a baby (and maybe waiting until age 4 or 5).
Although I’m glad to have my dog and wouldn’t trade him for anything right now, I think life would be a bit easier having the baby first and focusing only on that until things stabilize a bit.
It’s easy to say this in hindsight, but if you don’t have a child yet, it’s even easier to talk yourself into getting a puppy.
Like everything else, talk it over with your spouse and see what makes sense.
What do you think about the different arguments here? Assuming you even want a dog, which would you rather do first, have a baby or get a puppy?