This post was written by Jenni Fielding who has two children and two dogs.
If you’re thinking of getting a family dog, it’s really important that you put lots of thought into it to make sure that you choose a dog that’s perfect for your family.
Choosing a good dog is about so much more than just the breed. In fact, if you choose an adult dog, the dog’s background can actually be much more important than its breed.
Here are some of the most important factors to think about when you’re choosing a dog to live with your children.
Every dog needs exercise, but how much exercise varies greatly. Whilst some small, older dogs might be happy with 10-minute stroll around the block, younger and larger dogs might need up to two hours of off-lead running per day.
Think carefully about how much free time you have to walk your dog. Underestimating this is one of the biggest reasons why people sadly give their dogs away.
If you have a baby, you might have hours each day to walk a dog whilst pushing the pram at the moment. But, once your child is three or four and is too big for the pushchair but too small to walk for more than fifteen minutes, you might have a problem on your hands.
All dogs need to be groomed, some much more than others. Choose a long-haired breed and you’ll either need to budget for trips to the groomer or have a lot of time and the skills to be good at dog grooming at home.
Dogs with shorter coats certainly require less grooming, but they still need to be brushed regularly. Dogs with short coats often moult the most so you’ll probably find that you need to sweep or vacuum your floors much more than you would if you didn’t have a dog.
Is anyone in your family allergic to dogs? Some breeds are better for allergies than others, but no dog can be said to bee100% hypoallergenic.
One of the most important things when choosing a family dog is that the dog has a good temperament. Even the smallest dogs can be incredibly dangerous around children if they were to snap.
A good indicator of a dog’s temperament is often its breed. Dogs which are known for being friendly, loving, easy-going include Labradors, bulldogs, beagles and bull terriers. Breeds which probably aren’t great for children include akitas, greyhounds, huskies and chihuahuas.
You might think that smaller dogs are better for children, but that’s not usually the case. Small dogs can be incredibly fragile and easily hurt by an eager and well-meaning child. Just a fall from a sofa could be enough to break the legs of a teacup dog. Small dogs may also feel threatened by children, which can sometimes lead to them becoming aggressive. This is known as ‘small dog syndrome’.
However, very large dogs should probably be avoided too. A dog the size of an adult can easily hurt a child by accident. Even a swish of a tail would be enough to floor a toddler and a large dog accidentally stepping on your child’s foot could leave a bruise.
The best dogs for young children are often medium sized dogs.
Puppies aren’t usually the best choice of dogs for under-fives. Training a puppy takes an incredible amount of work, and if you already devote a lot of time to your child, you probably won’t have enough time to train a puppy at the same time.
Puppies need to learn that humans are in charge. If you have older children, you first need to teach them how to train a puppy, before your puppy arrives.
You might also want to avoid very old dogs who may be grumpy, have stiff and sore joints and who might not live as long as you’d like.
Choosing a family dog
So, there you have some of the main things to think about when choosing a family dog. Of course, every family is different, just as every dog is. If you can find a good dog that’s lived with children before and is already well-trained, you’re on to a winner. However, such dogs are hard to come by, so you may need to be patient and wait for the right dog to come into your life, rather than going with the first one you see.