Welcoming a dog into your family can be a wonderful experience, especially for your children. Not only are dogs a source of unconditional love, but they can help teach responsibility, compassion, patience, and boundaries.
When choosing a dog for your family, it is important to consider your family’s lifestyle. While dogs are in general excellent additions to your home, some breeds tend to be more family-friendly than others. What factors should you take into account when deciding which breed to adopt? Which dog breeds are best for families with kids?
Table of contents
- Why get a family dog?
- Considerations for adopting a family dog
- Preparing your family for a dog
- Best breeds for kids
- Bottom line
Why get a family dog?
Family pets can bring a lot of joy and love to a household. Pet ownership also teaches children valuable life skills like responsibility, trust, compassion, respect, and patience, notes early childhood specialist Tracy Trautner from Michigan State University. While kids can be excellent playmates for high-energy dogs, having a dog in the house gives kids first-hand experience with interacting safely and respectfully with animals.
The companionship and love that dogs offer humans is why we love them so much. And they seem to understand us better than any other animal. Research has found that when we gaze lovingly into our dogs’ eyes, they both understand and return the affection. Dogs and humans both release oxytocin, a feel-good hormone, when they look into each other’s eyes. But they can sense more than just affection—dogs are empathetic and can pick up on our feelings and offer comfort, which can make dog-child bonds even more meaningful.
Considerations for adopting a family dog
When considering getting a dog for your family, there are some important factors to keep in mind. You want a good fit between your dog and your family, so it is important to be realistic about your expectations and lifestyle to set your new dog up for success.
Busy families may not be prepared for a dog who requires extensive grooming, has serious health concerns, or needs significant exercise. If your kids want a ready-for-anything playmate or if toddlers need a gentle and patient companion, some breeds may be a better fit than others.
Temperament plays a significant role in how well-suited a specific dog or breed may be for families. Easy-going dogs tend to do best with hectic households and ever-changing routines of families, high stress or fearful dogs can be very challenging and may require a great deal of time, attention, and a predictable routine which are not necessarily compatible with family life.
Puppy or adult dog?
What about dog age? Many prospective pet parents want cute little puppies—they may be cuddly and adorable, but they are a lot of work! Between health check-ups, potty training, socialization, young pup energy, and other behavior training, puppies need time and attention that busy families are not likely to be able to take on.
Adult and senior dogs can be excellent options for families with very young children. Spruce Pets points out that they tend to have more manageable energy levels, and many have already mastered potty training and some basic commands. Adult and senior dogs will love you just as much as a puppy would, but without some of the puppy challenges. After all, babies and toddlers keep parents plenty busy enough. With a senior dog, children need to be able to respect the physical discomfort that senior dogs may experience and be careful not to jump or sit on their new friend. This of course goes for all dogs but seniors need a special level of care.
However, it is important to note that bringing home adult rescue and shelter dogs can also be challenging, particularly for a dog who has come from an abusive, neglectful, or otherwise traumatizing background. They may have behavioral issues, fear, and stress, and may not easily settle into their new family right away. This can be challenging for both children, who want a dog to play with, and for a fearful dog, who needs time and quiet to adjust to a new environment.
Be sure to meet any dog you plan to adopt in advance and ask shelter staff or foster families about their personality and needs to make sure it’s a good fit. Consulting a dog trainer to teach you how to assess a dog’s personality or asking your veterinarian about what to look for when meeting a prospective pup can be invaluable in your decision-making process.
Preparing your family for a dog
Just as you are training your dog to safely interact with your kids, you will equally need to do training with your kids to teach them how to interact with their new family companion. Parents should ensure that their children learn from an early age to respect the dog’s personal space. This includes making it clear that your dog’s crate, bed, and or food bowls are off-limits. Mutual respect will go a long way toward a healthy relationship going forward.
Parents already have their hands full, so the added time and responsibilities of a dog can be overwhelming. Creating a family schedule for walking, playing, feeding, and grooming can help get everyone involved and share the load. Children can typically start helping to care for family pets by the age of six, which can be an important consideration depending on your family’s lifestyle and your dog’s needs.
Best breeds for kids
Not every dog is the right fit for every owner, and it’s possible that families with children may find certain breeds more of a challenge than others. Here are some of the best dog breeds for kids:
- Labrador Retriever – Labs are great all-around dogs. They are friendly, active, and known for being excellent companions for families with kids.
- Beagle – These dogs are energetic, adaptable, and notoriously friendly. These cheerful and affectionate dogs were originally bred to work in packs and are therefore happiest when spending time with their people.
- Golden Retriever – Goldens get along with everyone, especially children. They can keep up with a busy and active family while also gentle, patient, and affectionate.
- Newfoundland – Newfies can be intimidating due to their massive size, but these dogs are gentle giants. They are mellow and incredibly loyal, often referred to as “nanny dogs.”
- Boxers – These athletes need a lot of exercise, which can make them excellent adventure buddies for families with active school-aged children. Boxers tend to be social butterflies with big, goofy personalities.
The decision to get a dog, particularly for families with children, is a significant commitment and requires time, energy, and money. It is important for families to consider their lifestyle and abilities. Not every dog is the right fit for every household.
There are, however, many right dogs and personalities vary from dog to dog even within a breed. Dogs are an excellent addition to any family with children. With the right amount of research, you will find yourself a loving addition to your family!