There are so many benefits to having a dog in the family, especially for children. They give kids an opportunity to learn compassion, insight, understanding, love and caring. Dogs help with self-esteem and confidence, since they are an absolutely reliable friend and companion. The beloved family dog is the thing that most adults will remember most about their childhood, including the inevitable sadness when their best mate is no longer around. But dogs are also fun-loving, joyful friends, who are always there for you, and kids appreciate and respond to that devotion and reliability.
If you’re considering adding a hound to your family unit, that’s wonderful. You’ll have years of unconditional love and joy. If you’re new to dog ownership, there are lots of things you need to consider and plan for. Having a dog is a huge commitment, and when you’re adding that to an already busy family life, you’ll want to think about the best way to make it work for everyone.
What Age Dog Is Best?
Babies and toddlers are normally very inquisitive, and tactile. This makes puppies less of an option. They can be easily hurt or injured by a small child who is just interested and exploring. Hugging tightly or pulling on ears and legs can be frightening and dangerous for a puppy.
Puppies also require much more attention from you, so if you have a toddler as well, your life may well be over-busy. An adult dog, older than two years is probably a better fit in this situation.
Older children who have more spatial awareness, and an ability to understand how to look after a dog can benefit hugely from growing up with a puppy, or an older dog.
What kids need to know before having a dog?
As adults, we have tacit knowledge in so many things, and it’s easy to assume that something is obvious. I’ve grown up with dogs, and they are such a passion of mine I can’t imagine life without them. But as a child, I made some mistakes and it was simply because I was too young to know what I was doing.
Share this Dog Safety Tips For Kids resource with the family. It’s a short, easy read and covers a lot of ground.
The main point is that both the dog, and the kids, need to be taught some rules about how to live together safely and enjoyably. The dog needs to know their place in the pack, and the children require help to learn about the boundaries, and vulnerabilities of a dependent animal.
Who is ultimately responsible for the dog?
Done properly, dogs require a regular time commitment in order for their needs to be met. They thrive and feel safe with a good routine for things like feeding times, walks, playing and training. Someone has to be in charge of making sure they have water at all times.
It’s too much to expect a young child to take on that responsibility. Some older kids are very happy to adopt the care-giving role, but they still need to be supervised. Teenagers who are responsible may be fine, but sometimes life happens, and being with friends may come first.
So, if you’re getting a dog for the family, you must be ready and willing to be the dog’s main caregiver.
Is There A Perfect Breed Of Dog For Families?
No, but there are definitely some breeds I’d judge more appropriate than others. Even then, dogs who appear calm and unshakeable can react badly when stressed.
Dogs bred for guarding or protection, such as German Shepherds or Doberman Pinschers may not be the best choice for small children. However, there are always exceptions. Many factors come into play, such as the temperament, age, training and experience of the dog. The type of family life, input and teaching from adults in the house, all have a huge impact on the success of bringing a guard dog and children together.
Toy and small breeds aren’t a good option, unless children are a bit older. A bit like puppies, they can be easy to hurt. They are low to the ground and can be frightened by boisterous play and running toddlers.
Some dogs shed their coats a lot less than others. Is this important to you? Does anyone in the family suffer from allergies? There may be some ‘hypoallergenic’ breeds you could consider, such as a Bichon Frise or a Schnauzer.
Mixed breed dogs can be a great option. The good thing about these hounds is that they are available in abundance at shelters, just waiting to be adopted to their forever home. Mixed dogs tend to have less allergies and breed specific health issues. They are just as likely to have a beautiful temperament as a pedigree dog, so definitely consider adopting a ‘mutt’.
Best Dogs For Kids
These particular dogs come up time and time again as suitable for family life and kids. You’ll notice that there are only five breeds. That’s because, in my opinion there are hundreds of suitable dogs for kids. It all depends on the specific dog, the family it’s in, the adult input, the training of both dog and kids and many other things we’ve already talked about. Don’t discount any dogs based on their breed alone. If you can have a week’s trial with a dog, even better.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) ranks the retriever as the 3rd most popular dog. They are commonly employed as guide-dogs, are highly intelligent and easy to train. They love exercise and play, known for their happy nature and make excellent family dogs.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
These powerful, muscular, smaller dogs love to play, and they love children. They have a wonderful temperament and a permanently smiling face. Every ‘Staffy’ I’ve ever met likes to talk to you in little grunts of joy. They are ranked 80th for breed popularity, but I think they deserve a recount.
Ranked 6th most popular breed in the US, the Beagle is loved by families worldwide. They need lots of exercise and play. They are happy and loving companions who will exhaust the kids long before they are ready to have a rest themselves.
The most popular breed in the US, and it’s easy to see why. Unmistakable dogs who are either yellow, chocolate or black. They are excellent family dogs who just love to please. They are friendly, energetic and highly sociable.
These adorable dogs are extremely companionable and happy to be in family situations. They don’t need as much exercise as some of the bigger dogs here, but they are playful and intelligent. They are 4th on the AKC popularity list, so you know they are well loved by everyone.
Many dogs end up in shelters after failed attempts to bring them into family life. This is heartbreaking for everyone concerned, and potentially devastating for the dog. Getting a pet should never be an emotional decision. Asking yourself a few questions will help to prepare you, and set your family up for success. Remember that adopting from a shelter is a wonderful option. Enjoy the process!