A dog can be a wonderful companion for a family. When children grow up alongside a puppy, he becomes in some ways a major source of joy, comfort, and stability. The key, however, is choosing the right kind of puppy for your family.
There are a number of factors you need to take into account. Not every type of dog is right for every family. Here are some steps you can take to figure out which dog might be right for yours:
Make the rescue dog decision. Now, before we get any farther, let’s talk about the option of taking in a rescue dog. Rescue dogs can be a problem in a family with children, especially if you have small children. Because you can’t be sure what kind of trauma the dog has endured, even a seemingly purebred dog can exhibit behaviors that are antithetical to the breed. The same goes for mutts, of course. If your children are all older (usually 10 or above), then a rescue dog might be a good option. For homes with smaller children, it’s probably best to avoid that level of unknown.
Do your breed research. Talk to your vet. Look on the American Kennel Club website. There are some breeds that tend to be more relaxed, for example. These dogs may become overwhelmed in a busy household. There are other breeds that are highly trainable, which are often ideal for a family with small children. There’s a good reason that golden retrievers are a common family dog: they’re very trainable.
Take size into consideration. Smaller dogs are less sturdy than bigger dogs. If your toddler decides to give a yank on the ear of a Japanese Chin, he’s not going to tolerate it nearly as well as a German Shepherd might. In many cases, that’s how a young child gets bitten by a dog: the child hurts the dog in one way or another and the dog reacts in a natural manner.
Shedding matters, too. Certainly shedding can be a concern for you if you’re worried about cleaning up dog hair, but there are other reasons to think about shedding, too. Dogs that shed less also produce less dander. In turn, people (and children, especially) that have allergies tolerate these breeds better. Some of the more hypoallergenic breeds include Maltese, Poodles, Bichon, and the Kerry Blue Terrier.
Consider what the dog was bred to do. Some dogs were bred to hunt. They’re not going to be quiet or mellow. Same goes for herding breeds. These dogs have been bred to accompany people all day long. Dogs with high energy level that aren’t sufficiently engaged can become unhappy, and eventually destructive. If your family is a fairly active family, a high-energy breed shouldn’t be a problem. If you’re more the indoors type (or if you live in an apartment, for example) you’ll probably want a lower-key dog.
Work with a breeder. Reputable breeders that are connected with a Kennel Club can help you make the decision about a given breed. On top of that, they can answer some important questions about a puppy, such as common health problems, whether they socialize their puppies, and more. (Incidentally, a socialized puppy is preferable’ what happens during that first eight weeks of life will affect the dog throughout its life cycle.)
Visit the puppy. Now, a short hour-or-less visit doesn’t guarantee that a particular dog will work well with your family. However, it can give you some warning signs. If you see that the dog is overwhelmed by having several people visit, or if she’s particularly playful, it can give you some idea of the dog’s personality. Most reputably breeders will allow you to meet the puppy before making a decision.
Educate your children. No matter how old your children are, you can help them understand how to handle a puppy. Let them know never to disturb a dog while sleeping, eating, or chewing. Explain that the dog’s crate is his own special place, and shouldn’t be disturbed. Be careful with allowing younger children to give the puppy treats, or you run the risk of a little nibble.
A puppy can be an amazing experience for a family. Look at each of these areas during the puppy-hunting process, and you’ll have a much better chance of getting the right dog for your family.
Greg Robinson is the Social Media Coordinator at Vuezone.com, a completely wireless personal remote video monitoring network that is often used as a pet cam, nanny cam, or just to keep an eye on what you care about most while you’re away.
Earnest Parenting: advice for parents who want to choose a puppy.
Image courtesy of GirlReporter via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.
Doing your research pays off when getting a pet. Thanks for the informative post.
It sure does, Simone! We spent a couple of months figuring out what puppy would work for our family, and it was totally worth it. Best. Dog. On. The. Planet.
But I’m a little biased. 😉
Any suggestions on a good breed for our young family? Youngest is a girl, 2.5 years old, very docile and gentle. Oldest is a boy aged 4.5, energetic, loud and demanding – but thankfully at school most of the time!
We have average energy levels, i.e. walk or cycle 1 way to school per day (40 mins round trip). Go to the park at weekends, would take the dog on holidays. We have a large enclosed back garden and live in a suburb. We would prefer a small-medium breed that doesn’t have a strong herding, working, chasing or dominant instinct – and is easy to train. Would prefer a low-shedding breed. We are quite a loud family, so a sensitive dog would wilt in our house!
Previously we owned a Working Springer Spaniel which turned out a bad choice for us (and him); he went compeltely blind at 6 months of age. I did the puppy socialisation classes, basic obedience training and basic gundog training, as well as specialist police trainer-training with him for when he went blind. But we had to rehome him when he was 3, as he became depressed living with us (we now had a curious toddler who he didnt tolerate well), the neighbours complained about his barking, I couldn’t get him to walk to heel and he was too strong for me. I’m sure we didnt give him the mental exercise he needed for such a strong working instinct, although we did our best with the exercise in general.
We would like to not have a repeat of this previous experience as it was heartbreaking to have to give him up.
Any comments or suggestions about our circumstances, greatly appreciated!
Alexis, I’m no expert so I wouldn’t know how to answer your question. We ended up getting Irish Jack Russell Terrier in Keely, and I suspect Marlee is a mix but essentially the same breed. They look almost identical. I found some dog breed quizzes online (here’s one: http://animal.discovery.com/breed-selector/dog-breeds/questionnaire/page1.html?q=1) and took them, and also looked at dog magazines. I fell in love with a picture of Irish Jacks, and the more I investigated the more I knew we’d love them. Both girls are higher energy, but they’re great for us.
I guess the best advice is investigate, investigate, investigate. I researched for months before getting Keely.
Your kids sound super young, which would give me pause. Kids are enough work and adding a dog can be a lot of work. Perhaps waiting until they’re older would help?
Best of luck! I hope you get something that works great for your family.