Whatever your reasons are for adding a dog to your family, it is an important decision that should be not made on a whim and deserves research to make sure you make the right choice of dog breed for you, your family and lifestyle.
For the most part, children and dogs form great bonds and friendships that benefit both beyond words. But just like your children, all dogs are individuals and there is no guarantee you will get what you want or expect, even when you have made the most informed of choices. The breed of the dog is perhaps the single most important factor you can take into account though when deciding what dog is right for you. We all know that fashions come and go, but making a dog part of your family is for the long haul, and should you should try to not place too much weight on the exterior packaging of a dog. Of course, we all remember dogs we grew up with ourselves or are influenced by current dog breed trends, but just because you have fond memories of a particular breed or that dog in the magazine looks cute and cuddly, does not make it the right dog for your situation. No one is suggesting that you do not get what you want, but it pays to research the breed first, then make a decision based on the evidence.
Of course, before bringing a dog into your home, it is essential that some ground rules are set which any children in the house (adults!) need to observe. Kids need to be taught that the dog is a living, breathing being, capable of feeling pain and distress. They need to know what type of behavior is suitable and what is not acceptable or potentially dangerous. When they can play and when the dog needs peace and quiet. The best way to teach your children these rules is to lead by example and show them the way. They will take notice of your actions around the dog and also become more aware of the dog’s body language and posture through this. Another point to note is that no matter how reliable you think your dog is, you should never, under any circumstances leave your children and dog unattended at any time. It only takes a split second for an accident to happen, so make sure it does not happen between your child and dog.
Dogs which are going to be part of a family, especially with young children, all need to have some basic characteristics in common. They must be robust, fun, friendly, patient and reliable – basically a well-balanced temperament. There are many dog breeds that fit this description, so if you are stuck for inspiration on the breed for you and your family, read on……
- Labrador and Golden Retriever – Eager to please, intelligent, loyal and affectionate with a high tolerance for children, these two breeds have been firm family favorites for many years. Their pliable, trainable nature (usually via means of food rewards) means that they learn new commands and rules very easily. They gravitate towards people naturally and they’re calm, laid back and consistently reliable nature means they are good for families with children of all ages. While they can have a tendency towards being a couch potato, they do have enough stamina and appetite for life to play all day. It is no wonder that many service dogs are one of these two breeds and with that as a recommendation, a Lab or Golden could be the dog for you.
- Beagles – Life is always fun with a Beagle! Loveable, with a heart of gold and patient enough to deal with the most rambunctious of children, the Beagle is not always an obvious choice but is consistently named in the top 5 breeds for families with children. Beagles tend to love a cuddle and act like all people and rarely show any aggression. Being ‘pack’ animals they thrive on attention and welcome it in all forms.
- Crossbreeds – People often overlook cross breed dogs, but they can turn out to be little gems. Crossbreed dogs do not tend to have the genetic physical and behavioural problems found in many pedigree dogs as they have fewer limitations placed on them genetically when they breed, whereas breeding pedigree dogs limits the number of dogs the breeder can choose from, and therefore any negative behavioural traits are more frequently passed from dog to dog. Recently, cross breed dogs such as the Labradoodle have become very popular due to their laid-back Labrador temperament, combined with the low shed coat and intelligence of the Poodle. With dogs such as these, prospective purchasers can be made aware of the temperament of or meet both parents as a good breeder will always be happy to let you do so.
- St Bernard – A seriously big dog, with an even bigger personality! The St Bernard may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the lucky owner of this dog will find out the true meaning of loyalty. St Bernard’s were bred to help people, and this innate love of humans has transcended the ages, morphing it into a very well behaved, loveable and relaxed dog. Big enough to handle anything a child can throw at it, the patience of this breed is legendary, however, due to their sheer size and weight, when in full play mode they can tend to be a little clumsy, but never with aggression attached. The Newfoundland also shows the same characteristics as a St Bernard, making it just as amiable and willing to please as its counterpart.
- Boxers – With the correct guidance, this joker of the dog world will ender itself everyone and everything it meets within seconds! Given their rather hyperactive nature, they are best suited to a family who is very active and wants a dog who they can involve with everyday life. With a high level of intelligence and energy and low levels of aggression, this happy go lucky breed could be the dog for you, so long as you are prepared to give it firm leadership.
- Bichon Frise – this merry little dog has a wonderful approach to life and a sunny disposition. With a gentle nature and a natural tendency to like people, if you are in the market for a smaller dog then this one is worth a look. With the added bonus of a low shedding and hypoallergenic coat, this intelligent and friendly dog can learn new tricks easily and will delight all it meets. With early socialization to children, this further enhances the prospects of this dog as a perfect family pet.
- Hungarian Vizsla – often called the ‘velcro’ dog, this breed can form strong bonds with people and is particularly fond of and patient with children. It possesses a lively mix of energy, loyalty, protectiveness, and obedience and will make a surprisingly good companion and playmate for children. It does need a lot of input in terms of walking and stimulation, but with the right family, this dog can flourish.
Of course, there are many, many other dog breeds that may be suitable for your family situation.
Remember, you need to take into account various factors when choosing a dog to be part of your family including the age of any children, other pets in the house, your lifestyle ( Are you active or not? At work or not?), your time budget, the commitment involved…. the list really does go on and on! There are so many breeds of dogs to choose from and you must remember that all dogs are as individual as you are!