Best Dogs for Kids
I’ve recently noticed that many families are considering adding dogs to their homes this time of year. Social media is saturated with moms asking questions about where to start. Today, I want to offer some tips for pet-loving families considering getting a dog to join their home; the best dogs for kids.
This blog post is not about listing specific breeds. Instead, it's about doing the work before getting your dog to ensure it fits your family. It's about doing what's best for you as a parent, your kids as future pet lovers, and the dog as a sentient being with wants and needs.
While most dog trainers and behavior experts agree that training can significantly impact its behavior, a dog's genetics, age, size, and temperament play a critical role. For this reason, families considering adopting a dog must consider the type of dog they want to share their life with before making any decisions.
As a professional dog walker and pet sitter, I cared for many dogs for many years. While most of the dogs I handled were excellent family dogs, some would not have been ideal for families with young children due to limited socialization, fear or trauma, size, activity level, or needs. I would never want to see a dog in a mismatched home because of the stress it can cause everyone involved therefore making sure a new dog matches your family is the best thing you can do.
Ideal Dog Breeds for Families
As stated, genetics can play a significant role in a dog’s behavior but will also impact the amount of energy they have, the amount of exercise they need, and the size they will grow to be. Genetics also determine how much they shed and whether they require extensive grooming.
Many families will choose a dog based on aesthetics alone. Please don't! A dog's looks will not impact your love of them, how they interact with your kids, and the lessons they teach your family about love, responsibility, and commitment. Their aesthetics play a minor role in who they are and should be given a minor role in determining what dog fits your family best.
Instead, families in smaller homes, for example, should consider how cumbersome having a giant breed dog would be in limited square footage. Similarly, families with infants and toddlers may want to stay away from herding dogs that may “herd” or nip at their kids when they start running and playing nearby. Finally, dogs bred for work like security, protection, etc., may be dangerous around kids of any age.
When possible, knowing your new dog’s lineage is a great way to determine if it’s a good match for your family. Using this information, consider if its breeding matches your family’s goals. Consider what you want from your new dog - companionship, exercise partner, etc. - and be honest about whether the dog you are considering will meet those goals.
If you have dog allergies, a limited grooming budget, etc., consider how a dog’s coat will fit with these limitations.
Ideal Dog Ages for Families
As much as I advocate for dog rescue, especially senior dogs, a dog’s age may determine whether a dog is a good match for your family. When working with a rescue organization, let the volunteers know about your family. Tell them how many pets you have, their species, the number of children who live in your home, their ages, and your experience with dog ownership. Rescuers will know what pet in their organization is the best match. I encourage you to be forthcoming and honest with both the rescue and yourself to ensure that the pet you select is the right fit.
If a rescue or shelter hesitates to adopt a pet to your family, consider that as a warning that you may not be in the ideal position to bring a dog into your home. Failed adoptions can hurt a pet’s confidence and cause trauma and related behavioral issues; rescues and shelters are, therefore, cautious. They would rather deny your interest in one of their pets over having them returned after a failed attempt at a match.
In most cases, puppies and young adult dogs may be a good match for homes with young children. Younger dogs tend to have more tolerance for interactions with children learning to touch, hold, and love them. An older dog with previous child experience is also a great choice. No matter the dog, always introduce your kids and your desired pet before committing to their care. Watch their interactions and the dog’s body language to ensure they are comfortable interacting with each other.
Keep in mind that puppyhood usually lasts about 2 years. The younger the puppy, the more control you'll have over its socialization but the more demanding it will be of your time and effort. Once you've chosen your ideal breed, research its developmental stages and decide your target age accordingly.
Ideal Dog Sizes for Families
When considering your new dog, keep in mind that the larger the dog, the shorter their lifespan tends to be. Also, remember that miniature and toy breeds can be delicate and may not be a good match for families with active young children. Tiny dogs may be easily injured, dropped, or stepped on, which could yield catastrophic results.
Families with children and tweens, elderly relatives that visit, and active lifestyles will do best with medium to large-sized dogs. These dogs - ranging from 25 to 60 pounds - are neither too small nor too large and can comfortably fit in most homes, with or without yards. Larger active dog breeds tend to require more exercise than smaller breeds; consider how much time and energy you have when considering both size and breed.
Also, consider how much travel you plan to do with your pet and your preferred method of transportation. A smaller dog that fits in the cabin of a plane will be ideal for those that want to bring the dog on vacation or move often. A dog weighing less than 50 lbs may be easier to bring along to hotels. Always consider your lifestyle and preferences when choosing your new pet. After all, a dog is a long-term commitment.
Ideal Dog Temperaments for Families
Families tend to be busy. Considering a dog’s temperament and socialization before bringing them home can save time and reduce stress. A dog that is not socialized, is fearful, anxious, etc., may require more time to adjust to a new home, new people, and new experiences. They may demand more time, training, and care than busy families can give. Consider how much time and resources you have before committing to a special or high-needs dog.
Easy-going dogs are an ideal match for families with children, people with limited dog-rearing experience, and those with busy schedules. A well-socialized dog can join you for walks with the family, road trips, and soccer practices, whereas a dog with significant trauma may struggle with family and social demands.
As much as I love to see families take on pets with special needs, I encourage you to be sensible about what you can and cannot do. It’s okay to say “no” to a pet that isn’t quite right for you and your family, even if you feel guilty. The kindest thing you can do for a dog with special needs is to know when you can’t meet their needs.
Bringing Home a New Dog
Once you’ve found your perfect canine match, remember that it takes dogs a few months to settle into their new home, family, and environment. I urge you to learn the 3-3-3 Rule and set realistic expectations for your dog’s settlement period.
Cats Are Great for Kids
I chose a cat for our family because I knew I could not commit to a puppy. I am still potty training my toddler therefore the thought of potty training a puppy at this point in my family's life was not appealing. I was also afraid that my favorite dogs - rescued old dogs - would not be comfortable around my excitable young children.
Our cat, Van Gogh, has added joy, playfulness, and learning without adding unnecessary stress or overwhelming demands. The longer he's with our family, the happier I am that I chose to adopt him.
Since his arrival, Van Gogh has been using his litter box, has embraced his backpack walks with our dog, and loves interacting with the kids, even when their play is loud and slightly manic.
I get that cats aren't everyone's cup of tea, but I think they make awesome pets that fill that need for companionship and affection without the demands that dogs can often represent. Cats are 10/10 great pets to consider!
Learn more about my family, our pets, and our life covered in pet hair on social media.