So many people ask me about children and dogs. What age is a good age to have a family dog? Now I feel that is a bit more complex of a question then it might first appear. The 2 biggest factors would be the breed of the puppy you are planning on getting and your child’s ability to follow simple directions. And then there are some less glaring things that should also be considered. Overall though I feel puppies/dogs and children just go together!
The benefits of having a dog in the family are almost too numerous to mention but let’s list a few just to show how wonderful it can be! It helps to teach responsibility. I feel it is a great thing to have a child help in the care and maintenance of a dog. Obviously, supervision will be needed but depending on the age of the child and their capabilities feeding, watering, brushing, yard clean up, and even training can be done by a child with some help. Giving some responsibility will help to strengthen the bond between the dog and child also. One amazing aspect, I feel, that happens is the pride of ownership. We raise Giant Schnoodles that weigh between 80-100 pounds. When a child is allowed to work with these gentle giants and they can walk them on a lead...well, do you know what that can do for a child’s confidence? Simple but profound!
So what are some things that should be considered before bringing a puppy or dog home? Let’s talk first about whether you are bringing an adopted adult into your home vs a puppy. I am all about adoption and rescue! Seriously, I was called Elly May Clampett! We also have a large family of 7 children. I learned some things along the way. The right dog or puppy brought into the home was a HUGE blessing but the wrong one was a huge mess and sometimes scary! So some guidelines when adopting an adult. Ask a ton of questions. They are not rehoming the dog for no reason. Ask if you can talk to their vet. What food they are one. What the dog’s normal day looks like. If you are adopting from a shelter do they have a no shame return policy? One thing I have very much observed in our own house is that although we have absolutely loved all dogs we have brought into our home, we had a deeper bond with the dogs we raised from a puppy. That might be a factor for you to consider!
Now let’s talk breed. All puppies are sooo cute and soooo pull at our heartstrings but don’t buy a puppy on a whim. One that you see in a pet store or at a flea market. Those tend to be puppy mill dogs. And when you buy “spur of the moment” you probably did not have time to look up that breeds attributes! Not every breed of dog makes for a good family dog. Some breeds are much harder (more labor intensive) to train. And if you have young children already, having a hard to train dog will only add to your workload! We used to raise labs for hunting when we lived in Colorado. I love the breed! They make excellent pets but the first 2 years can be a huge chore. In comparison to our Giant Schnoodles or the poodle (of any size) or most any of the doodles are all very easy to train. What I am ultimately saying is do your homework and be honest with yourself with your abilities to commit to the time it will take to train your new baby. A little research at the front end of your search will save you a boatload of heartache where it really counts! Getting a breed that matches your families activity level and lifestyle will make such a difference to how well that puppy will work in your family!!
Another consideration is your child/children. Are they afraid of dogs or animals? If yes, don’t expect bringing in a dog to cure that. It will only be hard on child and dog. Work to overcome that before bringing a dog or puppy into the house. Another hard but needed question would be does your child listen to your instructions? They all have their moments but overall do they listen? If yes you are well on your way. If they are still too young to grasp certain things that is ok as long as you are willing to work with them.
Let me give you a very real and working example in our home. The pictures you are seeing are my granddaughter who just turned 2 and Sasha, our 12 week old red standard poodle. They are both being trained together. I have to watch both of them as they both could hurt the other. Sasha has those insanely sharp puppy teeth and Bella has those sweet soft arms and legs! Bella has quick hands and a quick mind and Sasha has long hair and ears that are floppy! Both are pretty typical with the exception of Sasha being a poodle is very quick to respond to me telling her to stop (something you would not see in other breeds...with the exception of the Doodles). My point is the responsibility is on me to train both of them. To be diligent for both of their sakes. But as you can see from the pictures that they are bonding quite nicely. It truly blesses my heart to watch my granddaughter learn early on how to handle dogs the correct way so she can have a lifetime of love from the furry side of life!! And a lifetime of confidence around animals!