Getting a new dog is a wonderful and exciting experience, but it’s important to properly prepare your household for your future pooch.
Dogs may be the quintessential family pet, but they can cause turmoil in some cases due to poor planning.
One good way to avoid problems is by creating and signing a family dog contract. That way, everyone will be on the same page about expectations, responsibilities, and other possible points of contention.
Below, we’ll share how family dog contracts work and what you should include in yours before bringing home your new fur baby.
Family Dog Contracts: Key Takeaways
- Family dog contracts are essentially agreements between family members that outline everyone’s dog-care responsibilities. For example, they may discuss who is responsible for walks or whose job it is to feed the pooch.
- Family dog contracts can also be helpful for roommates, romantic partners, or other situations in which multiple people share a dog. Frankly, “family” dog contracts are even more helpful in some of these situations than in true families.
- Family dog contracts may or may not be considered legally binding. Because myriad factors are involved in contract disputes, it’s wise to discuss the contract with an attorney if you want it to hold up in court.
What Is a Family Dog Contract?
A family dog contract is a document that outlines all responsibilities, duties, and privileges relating to a family’s future furry friend.
For example, the contract may identify who’s responsible for taking Fido on his evening walks or giving him baths.
But these contracts vary pretty significantly in terms of scope and tone.
Some feature a pretty serious structure and are signed by all the relevant parties and perhaps even notarized. Meanwhile, other family dog contracts are pretty light-hearted “documents,” which may be no more official than a crayon-penned note stuck to the fridge.
Regardless of the format, it’s a good idea to discuss all doggie duties with your clan before bringing home your new four-footer.
This way, you can make sure that your pooch is well taken care of and that everyone is prepared to play their respective roles. It also might prompt some important conversations about what type of dog is ideal for your family.
What Kinds of Things Should a Family Dog Contract Cover?
The more specific your contract, the better off you’ll be when it’s time to welcome man’s best friend into the family. So, try to make the contract as detailed and comprehensive as is appropriate.
For example, a contract written by you and your 6-year-old probably needn’t cover much more than things like walking the new wagger or helping feed the four-footer.
On the other hand, a contract between parents and adult children or roommates should probably identify every possible point of contention imaginable.
Here are some clauses you’ll want to consider including in your canine contract:
- What’s the ideal dog type? If you haven’t adopted or put down a deposit for a dog yet, you and your family should discuss what type of dog you’re looking for. Some factors to consider are coat type, energy level, and size. Also, consider what type of pooch personality would meld best with your household.
- When will the dog be walked and by whom? Selecting who will be on pooch poop duty isn’t the most exciting part of the canine contract, but it is a necessary one. Decide on a couple of ballpark times for when Fido will get a walk throughout the day and assign a person to each walk.
- Who will feed the dog? Make sure someone is responsible for keeping up with Spot’s mealtimes and checking to see if the water bowl is full. And don’t forget to outline doggo dishwashing responsibilities to avoid a build-up of bacteria.
- How does a pet fit into the budget? While this might be a discussion just for the adults, it’s critical to make sure you can afford a furry friend before bringing home a new pooch. Create a budget for your new dog that outlines who will be paying for each pooch-related expense.
- Who will train the dog? Training is essential to keep your dog and those around him safe, so delegate this responsibility wisely. It might be a good idea to outline what commands you’d like your dog to master and the type of dog-training approach will be used so that everyone has the same goals in mind. Also consider creating a schedule for kiddos where they can engage with the dog in kid-friendly training games each day to work on and maintain your dog’s training.
- Who will be in charge of pooch playtime? Playtime isn’t just a whole lot of fun, it’s essential to your furry friend’s mental and physical health. Make sure you discuss how each family member can carve out some time to play with the pooch. The same goes for canine enrichment. Discuss who will meal prep licking mats, stuffed Kongs, and puzzle feeders to ensure your dog continues to be physically and mentally provided for.
- Who will clean up any mutt messes? Accidents are bound to happen, so it’s important to identify cleaning responsibilities for everyone involved. Ideally, everyone will be ready, willing, and able to clean up after your furry friend, but this may not always be realistic if young kiddos are in the picture.
- Do we need to dog-proof the house? Have your family decide on the best ways to keep your dog safe at home. Determine if any furniture or electronics, for example, need to be moved to accommodate your furry friend. Will you be gating off certain rooms in the house? Will you be purchasing couch covers? Also, agree on boundaries for your best buddy. For example, is your furry friend even allowed on the couch? Does the dog need to stay out of the office? Just figure out these nuances beforehand to avoid turmoil.
- How can we keep the dog safe outside? Don’t forget to talk about safety while your dog is out and about. This can include making sure that your pooch always has proper I.D tags when leaving the home and ensuring each member keeps Fido on leash in public places.
- Who is responsible for grooming? Figure out who is taking care of your canine’s grooming. This includes daily duties such as brushing teeth and fur, and semi-regular duties, like giving the dog a bath.
- Who is the primary owner of the pooch? While this may not be necessary for parent-child situations, it’s really important for roommates, romantic partners, and similar relationships. Discuss things like who’ll make final decisions if there’s a disagreement and who the dog’s primary caregiver is in the event that your household arrangement changes over the course of your dog’s life.
- Where will the dog sleep? Some kids may advocate for having the dog sleep in their room. Decide how you feel about this beforehand and whether or not you’ll allow it.
- How will the family respect the dog’s need for personal space? Kids have a habit of not always respecting a dog’s personal boundaries. In some cases, this can result in a frustrated dog who avoids your kids. In worst-case scenarios, it can result in your child being bitten by a dog. Make sure you teach your kids how to safely interact with dogs, as well as cover some basic dog body language. We’d suggest setting some ground rules – for example, no one is allowed to go cuddle with the dog when she’s in her crate or on her bed. Everyone deserves to have their personal space respected, including dogs!
Check out this sample dog contract to get some ideas!
Who Needs a Family Dog Contract?
Family dog contracts aren’t always necessary, but they can be really helpful for some situations. Here are some scenarios in which it’s a good idea to draft up a canine contract:
- Your family is preparing for a new puppy. Family dog contracts are pretty useful for families embarking (get it?) on their first dog-owning adventure. The same goes for adopting a new shelter dog.
- Your kids want a dog, but you’re less enthused. Family dog contracts are particularly important when the kids are the primary pooch pushers. If the adults aren’t super stoked about bringing home a furry friend, each child needs to clearly understand the responsibilities associated with having a dog. Adults will probably end up taking care of the four-footer in some way or another, but setting these expectations ahead of time can help cut back on family canine contentions.
- You and your partner want a pooch. Bringing a fur baby into your lives is a big step that requires plenty of compromise and adjustment. You and your partner should discuss how you’ll take care of your furry friend, budget for him, and what you’ll do in the event of a breakup for the safety of your dog.
- You and your roommates want to get a dog. Even though you aren’t actually family members, roommates can benefit from dog contracts too. Make sure you determine who the primary owner is so that the pooch is always well-cared for with each new lease.
Will a Family Dog Contract Hold Up in Court?
Maybe. Yes. No. Uh, sometimes.
It’s impossible to make a blanket statement about family dog contracts holding up in court — there are simply too many variables to consider. It will depend heavily on the contract itself, as well as the laws of your state, city and country.
With that in mind, if you want the contract to hold legal water, be sure to discuss it with an attorney.
Generally speaking, a family dog contract is viewed as a tool for friends or family members to delegate doggie responsibilities in a fair, effective manner. Circumstances are bound to fluctuate, so it’s alright if the contract needs to be adjusted or amended as your dog grows. The main point is that you and your family are working together and communicating so that your dog is given the care he needs to thrive as your furry family member.
Family dog contracts can make amazing tools that help your family prepare properly for your pooch. It saves a lot of time and energy in the long run and most importantly, ensures that your canine companion will receive the care he deserves.
Is your family ready to welcome a furry family member into your home? What’s in your canine contract? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!