Getting a family dog

3 things I wish I knew before getting a family dog

Jamie Scrimgeour wouldn't trade her golden retriever for anything now; but there are definitely things she wishes she'd known before getting a family dog.

By Jamie Scrimgeour
3 things I wish I knew before getting a family dog

Photo: Jamie Scrimgeour

This past summer, after two years of the kids begging for a dog, I caved and said yes.

Now, I’d love to sit here and say that I finally said yes because I knew that our family was ready for the extra responsibility that comes with a puppy. I would love to say it was the “right time” for us. But that’s not the truth. Not at all.

But hey, whether it be having kids or getting a puppy, are you ever really ready for all that it comes with?

Here is the real story behind the new furry addition to the family, Charlie.

We are a blended family. My husband has three children (my step-children) from his first marriage, and together we have a daughter. My step-children are with us 50 percent of the time, every other week. While this schedule is great for co-parenting, it leaves our daughter without her beloved siblings half of the time.

Four years ago, shortly after we had our daughter, we decided to try for another baby. We wanted to complete our family and give her a “full-time” brother or sister. But, unfortunately, we haven’t been successful in getting pregnant for the second time.

You’re probably asking, what the heck does this have to do with getting a dog?

Here’s how: I always said that if we didn’t get pregnant by a certain date, then we would get the kids a dog. So, after our third failed fertility procedure in September, I said yes to a Golden Retriever puppy. (Go big or go home, right?)

Mom and daughter in kitchen with family dog Photo: Jamie Scrimgeour

My husband questioned whether it was an emotional decision, and truthfully, he was right.

Charlie was most definitely an emotional decision. But hey, we’re humans and most of our decisions are emotional!

Regardless, seven months later, I can confidently say she is one of the best emotional decisions that I have ever made. Charlie is the perfect addition to our family and a loyal companion to our daughter on those “weeks off.”

That being said, the dog is a lot of work.


Personally, I quickly learned that a dog is very similar to a baby—you think you know what to expect, but you don’t realize all that comes with it until you’re in the thick of it! So today, I thought I’d share the three things that I think you need to know before getting a dog.

Kids with family dog on stairs Photo: Jamie Scrimgeour

1. The kids probably won’t help out as much as they say they will

The kids begged for a puppy. They promised they were going to do everything. They swore I wouldn’t need to lift a finger, that they would take care of it all. Well, guess who is up with the dog in the middle of the night? Or who was at those early morning puppy school sessions? Guess who is with the dog day in and day out? This step-mama!

Yes, the brunt of the responsibility falls on me.

Don’t get me wrong—they help when they are home, but the kids are very busy these days. They are at school during the day and at extracurricular activities and after-school jobs in the evening. Plus, they are with their Mom for a week at a time. That’s a lot of time away from the pup! So just be ready to take on extra responsibilities or at least have a concrete plan for how you’re going to divide responsibilities with the dog.

2. It’s a major time commitment

It’s important to realize that it is going to take time and effort to train your dog, not to mention, get them adjusted to their new home. Those first few nights are long, especially if you’re crate training (which we did and highly recommend!)


I am so thankful that my job allows me to be home during the day, which in turn gave me the flexibility I needed in my schedule to do some training.

I would suggest only saying yes to getting a puppy once you know you’ll have the space in your calendar to do the necessary training.

The time and effort you put into training a pup is worth it. A well-trained puppy is a joy. A not-so-trained puppy that has accidents in the house and chews your shoes is an extra stress that I don’t have time for!

Put in the work. You won’t regret it.

Kids with family dog outside Photo: Jamie Scrimgeour

3. Being a dog owner costs more money than you think

From the cost of food, to trips to the vet to ensure that your pup is healthy and protected from parasites like ticks, intestinal worms and heartworm, be prepared to invest into this new member of your family. (TIP: Visit to learn more about these dangerous pests and the specific risks they pose for dogs.)


I highly recommend asking friends and family for recommendations on a vet you know you’ll love and trust. You want to make sure you set the foundation for a healthy and active life for the new member of your family.

Don’t let the costs take you by surprise. Do your research beforehand so that you can save up or at least be mentally prepared!

The other day, my sister asked me if I regret getting the dog. My answer? Not even close! Even though it was an emotional decision and my yoga pants are now covered in dog hair, this dog has stolen our hearts.

With our crazy-busy schedule, there were about 100 reasons why we shouldn’t get a dog. But like I said, it was the best “yes” I have ever given to the kids.

There is something about the love they have for “Char Char” that has brought a whole new joy to our blended family crew and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.


Disclosure: This content was created in partnership with Parasite Police and Today’s Parent. While compensation was provided, all opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily indicative of the opinions of Parasite Police or Today’s Parent.

Read more: 3 things I wish I knew before getting a family dog 3 questions to ask yourself before getting a family dog

This article was originally published on Apr 16, 2019

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