Complete Without Kids

Exploring all facets of childfree living.

4 Ways a Dog Can Help Make a Family

Is a "pup-child" in your future?

It’s a great time to adopt a pet, and as the proud mother of two Border Terriers, I can attest to just what a great addition a pup-child can be to the family. More than ever, people are adopting dogs; in fact, dog ownership is at it’s highest level in two decades.

People choose to become parents for a variety of reasons, including pleasing their own parents, carrying on the family name or genes, companionship, feeling needed, meeting one’s desire to nurture, having someone to teach things to, being part of the group, and strengthening a marriage. But some of these same needs can be met through the experience of raising a puppy to adulthood.

Here are just a few:

1. Dogs satisfy the need to nurture. My pups came into our home when they were around seven weeks old, and it was in many respects like having an infant in the home. I had to change my work schedule so that I could be at home every couple of hours, and I even took the first week off from work for more intense time with my pups. They were totally dependent initially, and my job was to comfort them as they adjusted to their new home. Even now, at the ages of five and three, Scuppers and Sable demand a great deal of affection and caretaking, and I enjoy giving this to them.

2. Dogs can strengthen a marriage and create a sense of family. Just like having a baby, if a couple comes into parenthood with a strong relationship, the experience of adopting and raising a pet can bring them closer. It takes an incredible amount of teamwork and consistency to parent a dog, and doing this together creates a feeling of being a family. My husband and I were together when we chose and named our puppies, and we work together to ensure that their needs are met.

3. They’re great companions. I never feel alone when I’m with my dogs. They are there to talk to and they also communicate with me. Even as I write this blog, Scuppers is snuggled up next to me nonverbally communicating his affection and love. Before I adopted my pups, it would have been challenging for me to spend an entire day at home alone, but having them here makes all the difference. Plus, they never talk back or argue!

4. Dogs are rewarding pupils. Like children, they need a lot of instruction. They come into the world knowing nothing, and if they aren’t trained properly they can be pests, or worse. The story about two dogs that killed a jogger might give pups a bad rap, just as one six-year-old throwing a tantrum in the grocery store can clear the aisle in a hurry.

Caring for a baby dog might just seem so much like caring for an infant, that you forget it’s not a real human. Check out this fun article about a couple in Alabama that took the concept to the extreme.

Do you have a pup-child? How has it enriched your life? 

Ellen Walker, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and the author of Complete Without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living By Choice Or By Chance.

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