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Which should come first, a dog or a baby? An expert weighs in

Many argue in favour of having children first as the dog that invariably received all the attention, in the beginning, suffers greatly when that is withdrawn.

Dog Versus Baby

Article summary

  • Is a dog just a dog or is it a “child”?
  • How do you choose which comes first – dog or baby?
  • Owning a dog is a long-term commitment. Choose wisely.
  • If you buy into a complex or apartment block you need to check whether the body corporate rules accommodate pets.

Ask somebody who is allergic to pet hair to comment on who takes preference in their home – animals or humans – and it’s easy to imagine what the answer will be. Depending on how manageable the allergy is, there are likely to be no family pets at all. At the very least, it’s a topic that will make for lively conversation around the dinner table!

In the reverse scenario you’ll find people – singles, couples and families – who treat the family pet as a child. And that sparks even more debate. But there are reasons for that, with some experts attributing the behaviour to societal changes that prevent extended families living near each other or today’s city lifestyles and work pressures interfering with people’s ability to develop close social connections.

Author Stanley Coren cites a 2017 survey by Rover, a network of dog sitters and dog walkers in the United States, which illustrates just how dogs have been integrated in people’s lives. Psychology Today published some of the results. These are a few of the highlights:

  • 94% regarded their dogs as family members.
  • 79% include their hounds in family occasions and vacation, while some even accompany them on dates.
  • 54% would consider ending a relationship if their dog disliked their partner.
  • 47% find it more emotionally demanding to leave their dog for a week than to leave their partner.
  • 56% greet their hound before the human members of their family.

How do you decide who comes first?

Behaviour expert Mark Earls told The Telegraph that pets “add to the richness of the modern family and are considered just as important as close relatives and friends. Dogs are more like us than many other pets – they’re social creatures who appreciate being part of a family and those who look after them.”

In couples where one or both either don’t like dogs or are allergic, this question won’t even come up but those who want to test their ability to raise a family together might decide to practice on a pooch first. It’s a clever tactic for the following reasons:

  • Suddenly you have to consider “somebody” else before making decisions to do just about anything.
  • If you’re getting a dog you have to be in it for the long term, whether your family expands to include children or not. However, many argue in favour of having children first as the dog that invariably received all the attention in the beginning (as the only child, so to speak) suffers greatly when that is withdrawn.

What if you choose baby?

  • That works for couples who want their children to be part of the decision to get a dog and to learn to care for one properly. This also means potentially more help looking after the dog, particularly if your children are older and can assist with walking, feeding, and cleaning up duties if necessary.
  • On the other hand if you wait too long there is the chance that some children might develop a fear or distrust of dogs through lack of contact or interaction with them.

It’s a tough call because people’s needs are so different. It’s a big decision either way so be sure to do the required research and choose wisely. Life will certainly never be the same again.

If you have pets, or are planning to get pets, and you are ready to buy a home to live in yourself, the pet-friendly requirement becomes a non-issue if the house you fall in love with is freestanding. However, if you buy into a complex or apartment block you need to check the body corporate rules. Some might not allow pets. This could also be an issue if you plan to rent out the property, as many tenants look for homes that are pet friendly. Do your homework on the pet issue before you buy to prevent disappointment later.

No matter what your preference – dog or family first – act now to find out how much you can afford on a home loan. Use the ooba Bond Indicator to establish what you might qualify for when you apply to a bank for a home loan. Then, when you’re ready, get prequalified or apply for a home loan with ooba today – South African’s largest bond originator.

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