Choosing a Dog for Children Parents dream of surprising their young children with a puppy, particularly during the holidays. They want a magic moment of childhood excitement followed by an idyllic relationship between child and puppy growing up together. Good preparation can help make it come true. Genetics and Upbringing The dog a puppy will become depends largely on two things. One is the genetic heritage from the dog's ancestors. Good genetics requires good planning. Their responsible breeders lovingly place puppies from well-planned breedings in carefully screened homes. A puppy with poor genetics can be a risk to your children. The second factor influencing the dog that puppy will grow to be is how the puppy is raised, starting from birth. A puppy who goes through a shelter has increased risks of problems because of the shelter experience itself, as well as other mishandling that most likely occurred prior to the shelter. A pup exposed to a large number of other dogs in a crowded situation is also at high risk of developing disease. That's in addition to the increased risk of genetic diseases from poor breeding. This is not to say that you should not adopt from a shelter or a rescue. But when adopting from these settings, look to the adult dogs rather than the puppies. Someone else will adopt the puppies, you can bet on that. With the adult dogs, size is not guesswork as it is with puppies. The type of grooming the coat will need can also be accurately determined. A better guess at the breeds that went into a mix can be made in the adult dog than in the puppy, and breed has a great deal to do with a dog's behavior. Activity level may not be possible to determine in a shelter. The dog may be highly stressed and tired, and as a result much less active than normal. Temperament, too, may be impossible to fully assess until the dog has been out of the shelter for a matter of weeks or even months. Many people are in a position to risk that things will turn out so that they'll be able to responsibly manage the traits that emerge as the shelter puppy grows up or the adult dog settles in and finishes maturing. Parents of preschool-age children often are not in this position. There are few situations that demand as stable a temperament in a dog as life with children younger than school age. An additional problem is that growing up with the child, which intuitively would seem to guarantee the dog would be the perfect lifelong companion for that child, often turns out to create serious problems. Young children lack empathy, and if allowed can severely stress dogs. Puppies may not react much to this treatment in puppyhood, but as they mature into their defense drives, they'll often decide the child is NOT going to do that again. The preventive solution is for parents to supervise and govern the child's behavior. In order to do this, parents need to recognize what child behaviors will affect future dog behavior, even though the puppy doesn't react at the time. Is a Puppy the Best Idea for Your Family? You can prevent many problems by opting for a stable adult dog from a known background with an excellent history around children. It helps if the dog is large enough not to be easily injured by the child, but perhaps not large enough to knock the child into next week with a playful bounce. Some very large dogs are quite steady, though. It's not terribly difficult to find an adult dog who is already housetrained, especially if the dog is spayed/neutered. These surgical procedures have been found to reduce the statistical risk of the dog injuring a child, too. Having housetraining already accomplished certainly makes life easier on a young family. It's better for the dog as well as the new family if the dog comes directly from a home where you can meet the former family and learn of the dog's history. Going from one real home to another, without a stop at the animal shelter, means less stress on the dog and a better temperament assessment. Many dogs who are quite good with children need new homes for other reasons. Proven ability with kids is a precious thing in a dog. The Best Source for a Puppy Puppies are high-maintenance. If your family has the time and knowledge-or access to gaining the knowledge in a good puppy class-you need a puppy with the best chance of growing into a child-safe dog. That means good genetics and the right start in life. Consult responsible breeders to help you determine which breeds could fit your family, and which specific puppies. Good breeders know whether their pups could fit particular families or not. It's important that you and the breeder meet and the breeder have the opportunity to observe your children with dogs. Don't think of this as a test to try to pass, but rather as an honest and expert evaluation to help you make the right decision for the welfare of your children. The breeder cares about the kids as well as the puppy, and wants a truly happy ending for everyone involved. A responsible breeder will stand behind the puppy and help you when problems arise. If it happens that a mistake has been made and the puppy isn't right for your family, a responsible breeder will take the puppy back and find pup a new home. Be prepared to wait for a puppy, not a ready-in-time-for-the-holidays deal. In fact, you should be suspicious of a breeder who gears up to produce lots of holiday puppies. Responsible breeders place puppies in homes, rather than sell them like merchandise. Timing Sometimes it's better to wait until the children reach school age before acquiring a dog. This doesn't mean your children can't have positive contact with dogs in the meantime. One thing you can do as a family is make friends with a responsible breeder and help socialize puppies to children in the right way. Your kids can also be involved with therapy dogs and good dogs who live with your extended family and friends. After the mental development of empathy at age 5 to 7 years, children have increased ability to treat dogs properly. Parents still need to be careful, especially with boys up to age 9, who are the most common victims of severe dog bites. The decision to add a dog to the family is a big one. The right dog at the right time can add a great deal to a child's life. Memories from many happy years with the dog carry the meaning of a child's relationship with a dog far beyond that snapshot on a holiday morning.
you seem very knowledgable about many things, as i have noticed from your daily posts...are you a vet, or tech, ro something related? and do you write this yourself, or is it compiled research? just curious...
Itlgto, You make some really good points. You may however, want to point out that the novelty of a new puppy wears off pretty quickly and that unless the Mom really agrees you should reconsider. I have 2 kids 7 and 10 both boys. Yes they love Aisha and play with her daily but if it is not reminded constantly the puppy would never be brought out to do her business or be fed. They also do not know how to properly handle situations. So the parent that is home the most need to know that it is going to be like having a 2 year old around the house............just an additional thought
EskieGirl - No, I'm not in the animal field. I'm actually a Transportation Manager for a non-profit social services agency. The word and the thought for the days come from compilations of articles that I find on the internet. My responses to other post are solely mine. I just feel a few general information posts might actually be helpful to both newbies and senior members at times. I only wish the search function on this board worked better. If anyone feels that I should not post thoughts and words for the day please let me know! Aisha - You are absolutely correct in your statement. But, as everyone would hope, the adult is ultimately responsible for their animals, just as they are with their kids. Taking complete care of a live animal of any kind is to much responsibility to be left to a child. Thanks for your responses!