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Are You Raising Your Kids to Be Dog People?

Sarah Preston Gorenstein

I grew up with dogs my whole life. There was Gabby, the white German Shepherd who tragically got hit by a car when I was in grade school. Then we got Jake, a Norfolk terrier, who was the dog I grew up with as a kid (admittedly, he drove me a little nuts sometimes). Then we got Woody, another German Shepherd (his full name was Elwood—get it, Jake and Elwood, the Blues Brothers?). We ended up giving him back to the breeder after an unfortunate incident with our neighbor—he was a sweet dog, but he didn’t do well with strangers. Harry, my parents’ yellow lab, was next. God bless him, he’s 16 years old and barely walking. And my parents also have Oliver, a loving and adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel; he pretty much rules the roost.

When Jay and I were first married we knew we wanted a dog, even though I’m not really a “dog person.” We both grew up with dogs, and all of our friends (or most) have dogs too. It almost seemed like a rite of passage in our group: you get married, get a place to live, get a dog, and then have kids. We got our dog Barkley, an English goldendoodle, exactly a year after we got engaged (six months after we got married, and three months after finding out we were pregnant with Preston).

The timing wasn’t great, not gonna lie: Jay had just opened his first restaurant, a hot dog and Italian beef joint in a suburb far from our house, so he wasn’t home a lot. I was growing bigger (and more tired) by the day, and I had a big rambunctious puppy to deal with every night—alone. I called Jay at work more than a few times to tell him to come home and take care of his dog. The last thing I wanted to do when I was pregnant and working 60 hours a week was come home to walk a dog who could basically walk me.

But the reason we got a dog when we did was because we knew it would be a great addition to our expanding family. I loved the idea of Preston growing up with a dog, and loving animals. I wanted him to have the same memories of his dog that Jay had of the dogs he grew up with. And because dogs are in our lives, since everyone in our family has dogs and all of our friends have dogs, I thought it was important Preston was a dog person from the start. And I knew if we didn’t get a dog before having a kid, we’d probably never do it. Or wait 10 or more years to get one. You’d have to be crazy to have babies and puppies at the same time…the puppies have to come first.

As much as I’m not your typical “dog person” I do love Barkley, but what I love even more about him? Preston loves Barkley—they are BFFs. The bond they have is amazing. Barkley has always been so gentle with him; since the day we brought Preston home from the hospital he never got in his face or did anything to threaten his safety. I was so freaked out when I got home from the hospital, because Barkley was still a puppy and, though we spent a lot of time training him, he still jumped up on us when he got excited and all the things puppies do. In the pain and vulnerable state I was in from having a C-section, I wished at that moment Barkley wasn’t there—I wanted only to be with Preston, and figure out how to be a mom, without a dog in our face. (Sorry, Barkley.)

But now? Now he’s the best thing we did (next to Preston). He’s two-and-a-half now and he’s a great house dog, well trained, and very good natured. Preston adores him. The first thing Preston wants to do in the morning is take Barkley out of his crate, where he sleeps. Preston is always calling for Barkley at the park—“Baa-www-kleeeeey.” He tugs on his fur, and Barkley doesn’t so much as flinch. He “makes nice” with him, and pets him lovingly, and will walk over to him to give him a hug and kiss. We call them brothers, because that’s basically what they are. And guess what Preston's favorite book is now? Yup, Clifford. I can't wait to introduce him to Lady and the Tramp and Benji—who didn't love those movies as a kid? (We'll probably hold off on Marley & Me for a while.)

The one thing that worries me a little is that Preston is fearless with Barkley. He’ll stick his hands in his mouth, loves when Barkley licks him all over, and he’ll even pet him while he’s eating (or try to put his hands in his dog bowls—we’re working on that with him). And he’s just as fearless with the other dogs in our family (Olivier, and my brother’s yellow lab Lucky). But Preston seems to be less fearless around dogs he doesn’t know, which is good. He has boundaries. I don’t want him thinking he can walk up to any dog and pull on his tale, obviously.

Our experience has been great with Barkley; goldendoodles in general have a great disposition, but we also spent a lot of time training him to be this way—i.e. it was A LOT of work, but it definitely paid off. The funny thing is, it actually helped prepare us to be parents. The middle-of-the-night walks when he was a brand-new puppy got us ready for those middle-of-the-night feedings with Preston; working together as dog owners actually helped us figure out how we'd work together as parents. I know that's a little weird, right? Puppies and babies have a lot in common though.

Do you have a dog? Do you plan on getting one? Are your kids hounding you (no pun intended) to get one? What's your experience been? 

Visit my personal site at Or follow me on Twitter @thecosmomom, and Facebook (Sarah Preston Gorenstein) to see more pics of Barkley and Preston!