WHAT’S THE BEST DOG FOR KIDS?
By Niki Elliott
Niki and Kay run Puppies in Balance Puppy School in Bryanston/Sandton and are one of our recommended puppy schools. CLICK HERE to find out more about them.
What is the best dog for my child? We get asked this question all the time and really there is no single answer. Almost any dog has the potential to be good with children. There is a lot of speculation around certain breeds that are supposed to be good with children but you just never know how each individual dog will turn out. There are so many reasons why a certain dog will do well with children and another dog will react badly to children. The reasons are not always to do with the dog! The children in the household also need to be taught how to conduct themselves around dogs.
Most important is how do the children relate to dogs? Are they afraid of dogs or are they not bothered? How much exposure have they had with dogs in the past? Do you want a dog for your child or does your child want a dog? Are you expecting your child to care for the dog – to teach him how to look after animals? You need to consider the children’s ages and how active they are. Crawling babies and toddlers can be stood on or knocked over by a hyperactive, awkward, gangly puppy who does not know his own size. Bigger kids could squash or drop a small dog if they are not always careful. If your child is afraid of dogs, look at getting a dog with a quiet temperament and low to moderate energy level and of a medium size. You don’t want a puppy that jumps up all the time and mouths or chases your child. In some cases an adult dog that has grown up with children and was part of family life in that home, would be better than an excitable jumpy puppy.
There are certain breeds may be naturally good with kids and you need to do some research into the breeds to see which one would suit your kids and your lifestyle. Each dog has it’s own set of attributes and “problems”. If your child has allergies you would need to look at breeds that don’t shed very much, or at all.
A few suggestions of dogs to research that have been know to be good with kids.
Traditionally Labradors or Golden Retrievers have been suggested as being good with children, and they are usually pretty smart and easy to train, but they can be very hyperactive and destructive if they do not get enough exercise. The retrievers need more grooming than the Labradors, unless you have a mud patch in your garden!
The Poodle is extremely smart and is great fun without being over the top. They love to learn tricks, which can be great fun for the kids to train them, but can be a little nervous and would do better with older children. You have a choice of size as well – toy, miniature, or standard. Regular grooming is necessary but they don’t shed very much.
The little Bichon Frise is a perfect size for small children. This little cotton-ball breed loves to play, but is not usually too hyperactive. Regular grooming is necessary.
Beagles are clever, friendly dogs that are not too big. They respond well to training and are also a lot of fun. Their short coats make them easy to keep clean and they don’t leave a trail of fur everywhere.
The Collie and Shetland Sheep dog are both very calm, gentle and tolerant breeds that often do well with children of all ages and sizes - like Lassie. Regular grooming is necessary.
Then there are all the mixed breed dogs, who are often the most well balanced and intelligent of all the dogs.
When you are ready to make the commitment, visit some reputable local rescue groups or look on line for one of the many shelters. Unfortunately for the dogs, there are plenty of these groups around and they have lots of beautiful dogs looking for a new life. Find out about dogs that have been in foster care. Their foster "parents" know and love them. They really want the dogs to go to the right homes, and they will be completely honest about the dogs' personality and temperament. If you want a purebred dog, go to a reputable breed-specific rescue organization.
If you do decide to get a purebred dog from a breeder, research a number of breeders and get as much information about their dogs. If they will allow you to have the names of some of the people who have taken their past puppies, call these people and see what their dogs are like. Once you choose a breeder, spend a lot of time talking about the temperament and socialization history of the pups. A good breeder will know the pups and parents well and share information freely.
Your work really begins once you have found your new dog. Owning and caring for a dog is a wonderful way to enrich your child’s development and create beautiful memories to be treasured for years to come. The bond between dogs and kids can be magical. Training your dog and your children together is a life-long project. Puppy socialization and obedience training is absolutely essential! Make sure someone in the home can spend a lot of time training the new dog, especially if it is a puppy. It is really great if your child wants to participate in training, however it should be done under the supervision of an adult. Not many children have the motivation or dedication to train their dog when others are at birthday parties, on holiday are at friends!