Kids and Dogs - PetHelpful - By fellow animal lovers and experts
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Kids and Dogs

A dog or a puppy is often a child’s first pet request. Dogs make affectionate and attentive pets and they are more commonly seen out and about than some of the other pets. Dogs tend to be very visible because they require a great deal of attention. In order to be happy and healthy, they require regular walks, playtime, feeding, grooming, and training. In return for the care they are given, they offer unconditional love, affection, and entertainment. Sometimes they even provide an extra layer of protection, and they make the best exercise buddies!

Thinking About Getting a Dog?

ProsCons

Very trainable

Higher maintenance costs

Interactive

Requires training

Affectionate

Emotionally needy

dogs-and-kids

Why a Dog?

A dog or puppy is one of the most versatile of pets, as they range from tiny teacup poodles or Yorkshire Terriers to Great Danes and St. Bernards. There are many breeds with different temperaments, as dogs were bred for anything from fighting, to herding animals, to saving lives. These animals have a huge range of abilities, and an equally broad range of requirements to keep them happy and healthy.

Try and find out as much as you can about the dog or puppy you are going to get. Don't be put off from picking the perfect companion just because you don't know the dog's genetic history; each animal is an individual. Your vet may be able to make a good guess about what possible breeds might be in the dog’s background which can give an idea of temperament and motivators, then pay close attention to the behavior of the particular animal when you meet it. Many shelters allow for you to “try out” a new dog, to ensure that the pet's temperament fits well into your household.

Although breeds can have personality predispositions, each dog is an individual. Take time to choose a companion!

Popular breeds for kids:

Retreivers, Labradors, Bulldogs, Boxers, and most Shepherding breeds

Not so great with kids:

ChowChow, Afghan, Akita, Schnauser, and most toy breeds

Ages and Stages

A slightly older child, over the age of five, will have varying amounts of ability to take care of a dog. Until they have reached their teen years, they may be able to manage the basics of puppy care, but there is still a lot of training that you will be largely responsible for if you want a healthy and happy pet.

More mature dogs with exposure to children may be a more suitable pet for a child, and might even have training already. If you want a puppy for yourself or as a family pet, that can be an excellent choice. Participating in early training can be very beneficial and rewarding for children and teens, teaching both discipline and empathy. Just understand that you will probably be doing the lion’s share of training and nurturing as your child is likely to be in school or occupied by other activities. A puppy may be an appropriate option for a teenager, but keep in mind that dogs can live for 10 to 20 years, so you may end up with a dog of your own when they go off to college or to start their new life.

dogs-and-kids

Important Considerations

Although a well-behaved dog can be an asset when raising a child, I do not usually recommend buying a puppy for a very young child. If you wish to raise a puppy of your own alongside your growing child, I think it's a fine idea, but I recommend either getting the puppy before your child is mobile or after your child is around 5 or 6 years of age. Puppyhood is a time when young dogs learn how to behave, and they do have to make mistakes in order to learn. I have heard many instances of puppies and biting a child in play and causing injury, particularly larger puppies who are unaware of their size.

Toddlers also are learning during this period, and they are likely to make their own mistakes. Good-natured pinching, poking, and pulling just comes with toddler exploration, and may not be welcomed by all canines. I have heard more than one case of a toddler throwing a smaller dog or puppy down a flight of stairs or laundry chute or even putting an animal in the washing machine because it was dirty.

Until a child is 5 or 6 years of age, a mature medium to large breed canine is often safer for the pet. If you choose to have a smaller breed or a puppy with a toddler, you must be very vigilant when they are together. Toddlers are active, and they love to experiment. Sometimes these experiments end badly for the dog, the toddler, or both.

I am not saying that a dog is not okay to have around a toddler; my daughter learned to walk by pulling herself up on my mother’s black lab mix and balanced holding on to his back for her first steps. I am simply saying that a more mature canine that has been exposed to other toddlers or young children is a safer bet than an unproven puppy and parental attention is required.


In Short

Dogs and puppies make wonderful companions, but they require great amounts of attention, and usually training. They are going to be work for you as well as work for your child. Puppies are still learning and can be fragile, so keep a close eye with toddlers if you choose either a puppy or a smaller breed dog, for the safety of the child and the pet. Do not discount dogs that are already adults, as they often can make wonderful additions to the family, and do visit your local shelter to see if the right dog for your family may be just waiting to be taken home. Due to the huge variety of canine companions available, be choosy. Pick the dog that is most suited to your household, because the wrong fit is a miserable thing for both pet and people, while a good fit is pure joy.

Comments

Penny Leigh Sebring (author) from Fort Collins on November 25, 2019:

That doesn't surprise me at all. While some Dachshund and Dachshund mix dogs are wonderful with small children, I've met more who are a little temperamental, especially as they age. I find these dogs to be a better fit in families with slightly older kids. Well-raised, adult Rotties are often wonderful pets for small children, although they have been known to get a little overprotective.

Adrienne Farricelli on November 25, 2019:

So true about the smaller dog breeds and children. These dogs are so tiny they can easily get injured by being dropped or a child may fall on one. Some small dogs may also lack patience. Last time my niece came to visit, she was licked and loved by my Rottweilers but was bitten by my mother-in-law's dachshund!