How to Choose a Dog for Your Kids

Your kids are begging you for a long time for a dog, and you think you’re ready to give in. Perhaps you see that your children can be responsible enough to take care of another living being, and you seem ready for the challenges and expenses of owning a dog can entail. Now, don’t just head out to the pet shop to buy a new dog. Like any major purchases, you need to research first so you can make an informed decision about what type of dog best suits your kids.

Here are some factors you need to consider first before picking out your pup:

1. Lifestyle

The dog you choose should be in sync with the family’s level of activity and lifestyle. If your family is active and loves doing outdoor activities, get a physically active dog, or a pet who requires exercise. Children who are engaged in sports would love active dogs. If your household has an active social life and loves bringing in people, choose a dog who is fine with crowds, loud noises, all kinds of kids and other dogs. But if your family prefers watching TV, reading, or if you simply can’t commit to the exercise needs of an active dog, get a laid back pup with the same temperament as your kids.

Your decision must not be based on how adorable a dog looks. Sit with your kids and discuss the level of care and commitment you expect from them. Remember that even the best-intentioned kid who makes promises to walk and feed the dog every day may fail, so make sure you or another adult member of the household is willing to take care of the dog also. Once you’re out there looking for a pup with your kids, ask staff to keep the dog on a leash while your kids play, jump and run around the dog. An ideal pup should be happy, interested and relaxed, not scared or overly excited. Listen to the adoption counselor’s tips, and be honest about how much time you can commit to train and play with the dog. A bored energetic dog may start developing destructive behaviors that your family might only get frustrated about. If they advise that the dog is not good for your family, believe them. It’s best to pick a dog that matches your current lifestyle than a pooch that will make your family adjust its lifestyle.

2. Size of your house and living situation

The type of dog you choose will depend on the type of living situation that you have. Large dog breeds like a Labrador Retrievers, German shepherds, and Great Danes are more suitable for owners with large homes and have enough space for the dog and the kids to play and exercise. If you live in urban environments like apartments and condos, consider smaller breeds like beagles and Shih Tzu, as they are more tolerant of being indoors. Also consider the type of climate in the area you live in because some dogs are better suited for cold weather, while some are more fitted to warmer conditions.

How to Choose a Dog for Your Kids

3. Size/age of the dog and age of your kids

If you have small children younger than 7, small or toy-sized dogs may not be the best choice. These dogs are fragile, and may inadvertently get hurt by kids. Bigger kids can crush a small dog if they aren’t careful enough. Meanwhile, big dogs can get too rough for babies and small children. For kids, it’s best to get a happy-go-lucky dog who can tolerate pretty much everything. But be careful still, since even the nicest and tamest dog can bite a child once triggered.

Remember that if you get a puppy, you are required to perform potty training, obedience training and taking time to walk and play with him. You may leave the playtime for your child to enjoy, but if he/she insists to train your dog, make sure it is supervised by an adult. If the puppy is not yet trained, expect that there will be items in your home that will be nibbled, and surfaces that will be peed and pooped on.

Meanwhile, if you want a calmer dog, get an adult. But you may get a dog who became aggressive and fearful due to previous experiences. If that would be the case, be willing to commit to serious training.

4. Training

While we’re on the subject of training, you don’t just need to train the dog. Train your kids to behave properly when dealing with the dog as well. Teach them to be consistent and respectful with the dog, as well as to pay attention when the dog seems to have had enough play and wants to rest and be alone.

Here are some of the things to teach your children in terms of respecting the dog and avoiding conflicts (and of course, keeping anyone from getting hurt):

  • Don’t pull their ears and tails
  • Don’t bother the dog when he’s eating or sleeping
  • Don’t aggressively grab the dog
  • Don’t stare at the dog
  • Don’t touch his food while he’s looking at it or eating it
  • Don’t touch his toys and treats
  • Don’t meddle with the dog’s personal space

To further avoid conflicts, assign a room for kids that are off-limits to the dog, and a room for the dog that is off-limits to the kids.

5. Grooming and care

We all know it: long-haired breeds are cute and adorable. However, their soft and fluffy coat needs frequent grooming sessions by you or a professional dog groomer. If you’re not willing to spend time or money for that, go for a short-haired breed. Also, little kids may be fond of pulling and picking on the hair, which may hurt the dog. When dealing with children, it’s best to give them a dog with a shorter coat.

Also, be aware that whatever dog you choose – large or small, long or short-haired – they shed. If you don’t like sweeping up dog hairs regularly, choose certain breeds that shed less like border terriers.

6. Cost

Dogs cause additional expense for the family – they are actually pricier than most people think. The expenses on a dog do not stop after purchasing him. Besides your kids, you will also buy your dogs’ food, toys, beddings and grooming supplies. Consider veterinary and grooming expenses, insurance, as well as vaccination costs. When training a dog, you may need to buy a crate and a leash as well. If your kids are at school, and you and your wife (or adults in the family) go to work, you may need a dog walker and you should research its cost. If you travel abroad a lot, you may need to buy a more expensive crate that can pass airport requirements so you can bring your dog.

7. Breed

Though it’s not right to judge a dog by its breed, it pays to rely on breed reputation. Prefer breeds that are proven to be family- and kid-friendly.

Some common examples include:

  • Labrador retriever or Golden retriever
  • Beagle
  • Collies and Shetland Sheepdog
  • German shepherd
  • Poodle
  • Bulldogs
  • Newfoundland
  • Pugs
  • Bernese mountain dog
  • Great Dane
  • Bull terriers
  • Boxer