A new family pet

We're happy to announce the arrival of a baby girl 2.2kg.

The announcement of the new addition to our family has been e-mailed to friends and family around the globe.

The arrival of Kirby, the new family member was heralded as you would the birth of any long awaited baby, only our baby was in fact - a puppy.

She actually arrived at our house after a 2-year gestation of family thoughts and arguments about who would/wouldn't look after her. Who would pick up the mess, handle toilet training and discipline of all-types? How would she hinder or enhance our lives and the freedom to come and go on holidays, or spontaneously hop in the car for a last minute weekend away.

Finally - the family agreed to take the plunge and adopt a 8 week old American Cocker Spaniel. Life has of course not been the same since!

If you already had a pet in the house prior to the arrival of your kids, you are a veteran, with skills to share with novices like myself.

While we had always had pets as kids, they hadn't made it into my working-girl life and when my son was born I couldn't imagine taking on yet another responsibility.  However with an only child or even with a couple of young ones, pets can provide an additional item to what makes a family.

Proof of the benefits of having pets in the house, for all family members, tiny through to elderly have been proven beyond all doubt.

It really just gets down to who really will share the dirty-work, given mum is in the line-of-fire to handle the majority of pet-related chores.

If your kids are too tiny to take on poo pick-up duty, then Dad needs to help until your kids are old enough to take some of the pet-chores. For older kids, taking the puppy to pre-school or obedience classes is compulsory. From the outset our kids need to take on a level of responsibility for looking after and disciplining their pet.

In our house, the discipline part went down extremely well.  I'm was worried Callan was going to train Kirby to goose-step before she was 6 months old, but at least he got involved in ensuring she learned other rules which really suit, being a domestic pet!

Puppy pre-school, obedience classes, the dog whisperer and the doggy café are all new experiences, for a family taking on a puppy for the first time.

As anyone visiting the RSPCA or Sydney Dogs Home, knows there are many sad stories of families abandoning a pup, or dog past the fluffy, cute stage. A level of commitment is required to care for an animal, who, will create mess and total havoc, if the time to discipline is not put in at the outset.

We actually began with pets with short life spans - a goldfish, stick insects and ants. We also served an apprenticeship by dog-sitting a friends 1 year-old Spaniel.

Having passed all the pet-tests we set Callan and ourselves, we spent weeks sleuthing for the right dog, with the right temperament to match us. With a house full of colourful personalities who like to go for long walks and play sport, we didn't need a couch-potato dog.

Make sure you do your research before picking up the cutest, fluffiest puppy. Visit breeders or check personality traits of pure-breds and be sure you know the background of the happy mutt you plan on picking-up from a dogs home.

www.sydneydogshome.org (02) 9587 9611
www.rspca.org.au (02) 9709 5433
The Canine Counsel (02) 9834 3022 - Breeders
Select a Pet (02) 1800 331 783
How to Talk With Your Dog (New Burlington Books) by David Alderton