When choosing any family pet, it’s so important to pick an animal that is confident around children and will be a safe and steady companion. Selecting a dog involves looking at both the temperament of the dog and of the children it will be living with. A child who is constantly on the go and racing around probably won’t be that compatible with a retired greyhound who wants to nap for most of the day.
Most dog breeds are compatible with children, but things like both the dog and child’s age and personality can affect how well they get along. Once you have selected a dog to bring home, ensure you prepare your child for dog ownership. Educate and inform them of the correct way to behave around your new family member and NEVER leave a small child unsupervised with a dog, especially one you don’t know well.
Are your children ready for a dog?
Are your children of an age where they can help take care of a dog? If you have young children, avoid bringing a puppy home as there is a lot of potential for both physical and emotional damage.
A rambunctious pup or a small child pulling on wagging tails can end in tears and a puppy requires consistent training when it is younger, which a small child may not be able to maintain.
What dogs do your kids like?
Choosing a dog for the whole family needs to be a whole family affair. Ask your children what kinds of dog they like. Ask them to point out dogs on the street they like the look of, or get some books from the library for them to read and help with their decision.
There is no point in getting a dog your child cannot feel affectionate towards, or is fearful around.
How big do you want your dog to be?
The size of a dog is pretty important when considering moving them in to a family home.
Larger breeds may not be a great idea because of the danger of children being knocked over by big paws and big tails. Smaller breeds are best suited to older children as younger children may view them as a toy and play a bit too rough.
Which breed do you want?
Have a look at country Kennel Club pages to get a good idea of what breeds are available and read up on mongrels and cross breeds. Dog breeds fall into one of seven categories; sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting and herding.
Think about your family’s lifestyle. A working dog probably isn’t best if your family don’t like to exercise too much – your new pet will leave you behind and may start showing behavioural issues if not exercised enough.
Family Friendly Breeds
Some breeds of dog are particularly recommended for families with children by breeders and kennel clubs. These include labrador retrievers, beagles, golden retrievers, English Bulldogs, boxers and poodles.
Toy dog breeds such as Chihuahuas, dachshunds and Pomeranians are probably best avoided in case they become surrogate teddy bears for the kids.
Ask friends or people walking dogs in the park for recommendations. Existing dog owners have a great insight into breed traits and can highlight quirks and foibles that aren’t covered by more general overviews.
Ask people how their dog gets along with children and ask what factors they considered when selecting their own dog.
Visit Some Dogs
Take your children to the local animal shelter or breeders to see what is available. If your children do not have a preference for a breed already, this can help them narrow the choice down.
Interact With Dogs
Visit friends with dogs and take your children to the park to see how they interact with different dogs. Once you have chosen a dog you might like to take home, make sure your children and the dog spend some time together beforehand and monitor the interaction. Be ready to step in if the dog gets fearful or aggressive or if your children become a little rowdy.
Observe the dog’s behaviour and look for friendliness and curiosity. If the dog displays any negative behaviour, end the interaction and seek a different dog.
Bring Your Dog Home
Once you have established that dog and child will get on, bring your new dog home. Make sure your children get to interact with their new buddy, but supervise activity and don’t let the children overwhelm the dog.
Children and dogs can be the best of friends, but only if you have done your research and selected a suitable dog for your family. The steps above will help you choose a furry friend for life!