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Should you get a dog before or after you have a baby?

First comes love, then comes marriage...

The jury is still out on this one -- is it better to ease into parenthood if you have a dog first to break you in or will you regret that decision once you have a baby and then a dog to care for as well? Here's an easy-to-use guide, with all of the pros and cons to help you decide who should come first -- a dog or a baby.

Baby crawling towards dog

On getting a dog before you have a baby

You're just married or maybe have your sights on a life together, but aren't quite ready to have a baby -- so, what do you do? Get a dog, of course!

Fara LeBreton, New York mother of three, which includes pooch, Dixie, tells us that by getting a dog before having children, she was able to get a huge sneak-peek into life as a parent. From learning how to come up with creative solutions to problems quickly in sticky situations to realizing that Dixie needed to come first in their lives (no running off for a weekend trip on a whim ... without planning for doggie-care first!), LeBreton says that she wouldn't have it any other way.

Getting a dog in those honeymoon years of your relationship or marriage is extremely common -- and a good idea for many couples who want to ease into the life of a parent -- but it isn't for everyone. Considering getting a dog is a long-term commitment, not just an "until we have kids" relationship, and shouldn't be taken on lightly.

If you are planning on having kids some day, but can't resist getting a dog first, take the advice of Brie Remily, Seattle mom of 1-year-old twins, who says that even though they didn't have children when they got their dog, Bartley, they did extensive research when looking for a dog to make sure that when they became a home filled with both children and dogs, that it would be a good match. Now, Remily is proud to say that their intentions paid off -- Bartley loves their girls and some of their first words were "dog" and "woof."

On having a baby before you get a dog

Getting a dog after you have children can also be the right choice for families -- especially if even the thought of managing a house with kids and pets feels overwhelming to you. Also, many couples choose to have children first because they want their kids to have the experience of learning to care for a dog from the beginning or want it to be a family decision to get a dog.

Waiting until your children are older to get a dog means that there are more hands on deck to help with doggie care as well, especially because it's likely that your kids will be begging for a dog and promise to help out with walking, feeding and playing with the new pup.

A downside to waiting until your children are older to introduce a dog into the household is that children who don't grow up around dogs from the get-go can develop a fear of dogs, simply due to lack of experience with them. Also, recent studies have shown that exposure to dogs and cats in the first-year of a child's life helps protect against allergies.

The verdict -- dog first or baby first?

It's tough to make a definitive call in this debate since it's such a personal choice, with different outcomes for each family. In either case, having pets at home is a huge, life-long decision that shouldn't be taken lightly -- do your research and consider how you'll have to make changes in your life to accommodate a pet before you start looking.

More on dogs

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The coolest dog houses you've ever seen
Designer accessories for your posh pet

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