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Huge Mistake: I Got My Toddler a Dog

Photograph by Twenty20

Whether you grew up with a dog for a pet or just love animals in general, the time will come when you think, "Let's get a dog!" And if you have kids, the battle against adopting a furry freeloader might be lost before you even have a chance to write your pro/con list. But no matter how awesome having a dog in the family can be, it isn't always the best choice when you have a toddler.

So what were we thinking?

When our son's third birthday was approaching, my husband and I were over-the-top excited to get him a puppy. I mean, what little boy doesn't need his own dog, right? So for his third birthday we surprised him with an adorable chocolate lab puppy named Max and videotaped his reaction for posterity. Adorable? Totally! But we were so wrong about all the reasons we thought getting a dog would be awesome.

RELATED: Why Can't My Daughter Have It All?

1. "It would be a great way to teach responsibility" is a myth

Who was cleaning the poop and feeding the puppy? It wasn't the 3-year-old, that's for sure.

He can clean up the poop! Take the dog for walks! Be responsible for feeding him twice a day! Our son was an only child at the time, and I was a stay-at-home mom. Adding a furry friend into the mix seemed like a great way to encourage our boy to be compassionate and responsible. Fast forward a few days and who was cleaning the poop and feeding the puppy? It wasn't the 3-year-old, that's for sure. Any ideas I had about him cleaning the yard were quickly dropped when I realized how disgusting and generally unsanitary it would be. Aside from following him around the yard with a bottle of hand sanitizer and changing his clothes after each cleaning session I couldn't get past the fact that he was just too little for that kind of responsibility. Yuck.

2. Dogs get excited—with their whole bodies

We chose a Labrador retriever for their playful nature, chill personality and reputation as a great family dog. And that's what we got—just wrapped up in a big, slobbery 125-pound body. Max grew quickly (our first clue should have been the enormous paws) and in no time he was knocking our son down purely by accident. His tail was a weapon and wagging all the time (because Lab). Our son loved to play with him, but he wasn't big enough to keep from toppling over any time Max ran by—or just wagged his tail. If they were in the backyard alone together I had to keep an eye on them the whole time to make sure my son didn't get plowed over. Max 1, toddler 0.

3. Pets die—and it's horrible

Hear me out on this one. One of the hardest things about being a parent is when you have the horrible task of telling your child that their beloved fish/hamster/hermit crab/dog has died. It just sucks, plain and simple. Bringing Max into our family when our son was so young meant that when he died, both of our kids were still relatively young. I know you can't control these things, but it sure was hard to tell the kids that the dog they had loved their entire lives was dying. Parenting fail.

RELATED: 13 Times My Baby Was Just Like Your Dog

Do I regret adding a dog to our growing family? Not at all—I just would have waited another five years or so. An 8-year-old could hold his own against a huge, happy dog and clean up the yard to boot. Sounds like a win-win to me.

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