As a father of two and master of none, the rugrat-less of society occasionally seek my advice on how to best prepare for parenthood. My answer is always the same:
Stay on birth control until you have raised a dog.
Like human babies, dogs require you to drastically alter your lifestyle to meet their every need. For both species, those needs generally revolve around eating and the inevitable body functions resulting thereafter.
Gerber versus Kibble `n' Bits, buying Pampers versus renting a Rug Doctor; poe-tay-toe, puh-tah-toe.
Regardless of species, you must also attend to either's education. I don't care how easy those "Hooked on Fetch-onics" or "Puppy Einstein" videos make it look, it takes considerable time and patience to teach a dog essential life skills such as, well, when and where to go potty. Then come the important moral lessons about right (chew on this squeaky toy!) and wrong (don't chew my CD collection -- NOOOOO, not my Michael Buble!!!).
Even if you have a doctorate in teaching, you will still want to puppy-proof your home. This includes moving chemicals to a place out of reach, gating staircases and -- most importantly -- storing your dirty laundry in a locked closet. The last is for your protection, not your pup's. You seriously don't want Fido prancing around in front of company wearing a bandana fashioned from a pair of your least attractive tighty-whities.
Puppy-rearing sound like an expressway to a stomach ulcer? At times, yes, but here's the catch. While some children may never stop giving you agita (hi, Mom!), many dogs do.
With good guidance, lots of love and daily exercise (because a tired puppy is a good puppy, as a professional trainer once told me), dogs go through their wild and crazy stage in a fraction of the time real children do. In addition, canines seem much better at realizing the advantage of being good to those who bring them treats and scratch them behind the ears. Having been a teenager once and having one child ensconced in tweenhood, I can vouch that we humans aren't quite that quick on the draw.
I'm not saying post-puppyhood is a cakewalk. For example, our family has raised two Labrador retrievers over the years. While these vacuum cleaners of the canine world are great for mopping up floors or pre-rinsing plates after mealtime, for their health you never want to give them access to an uncovered garbage can or a park carpeted with Canada goose poop. For your sake, you also never want them to lick you after either experience.
Finally, researchers have found that having a dog -- unlike having teenagers -- appears to offer owners health benefits. These include lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol and triglycerides levels, decreased risk of developing heart disease or other cardiovascular problems, and a better ability to cope with stress. Some of these come from the strong bond and unconditional love that develops between owner and dog; others are a result of you assisting Rover with his regular exercise through walking, running or playing "come back here with that, you mangy mutt!"
The bottom line: Science shows owning a dog contributes to your continued enjoyment of beer and cheese.
Let's see your kid do that for you.
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