Think Carefully Before Choosing
Getting a new dog is an exciting prospect, but don’t pick a dog just on emotional response. This dog is going to be with you and your children for many years, so the dog must fit into your family life.
If you already have a small child, introduce a new dog or puppy slowly and carefully. During the first meeting you should probably hold a very young child in your lap, and the dog must wear a leash. Let the dog sniff the child, and if the child is old enough, he or she can hold out a hand for the dog to get to know. Eventually, let the child pat the dog’s chest; doing this leaves the dog’s sight line free.
If the child is older, you should still keep the child as quiet as possible, and the dog should still wear a leash. The getting to know you routine is still the same. It takes a while for a dog and a small child to learn each other’s behavior patterns.
If you’re bringing a new baby home to a dog that’s already there, it’s pretty much the same method of introduction. The dog may be jealous at first, but if you stick to the dog’s regular routine (feeding, walking, and so on), then the dog should be fine with the new addition to the family.
Never leave young children and any kind of dog alone. A very young child is still too young to understand how to treat the dog without supervision and guidance. A dog of any age or temperament can accidentally knock a child down or even nip if the child hurts him. By the time a child is eight, he or she can fully respect the dog’s behavior and even take on some of the responsibility of caring for the dog.
If you bring a puppy into your home, remember that you will have a lot of work to do with him. You need to housebreak him, teach him manners (no jumping, etc.) and get him through teething without losing all the legs on your chairs. Puppies are usually very enthusiastic, so need a lot of exercise. Bring young children and puppies together very slowly, making sure the dog can sleep when he wants and that he doesn’t disturb the children when they’re napping. Also, make sure the puppy eats only his food; ditto the children.
When choosing a specific breed, look for those who have even temperaments and the right size (medium-sized dogs are best for very small children). And find a reputable breeder, not a puppy mill.
Among the breeds that are popular with small families are the retrievers, especially Labradors and Goldens. Others that are also good with small children are some of the hounds, in particular, Basset Hounds and Bloodhounds.
Beagles, with proper training, are excellent with small children. Huskies and Samoyeds are also good with little ones, but they do require a lot of grooming. Collies aren’t as popular with the public as they once were, but they’re very good with children. Even some of the gentle giants, such as the Bernese Mountain Dog and the Mastiff, can live with small children as long as you understand the dogs are big.
If you choose to adopt from a shelter or a rescue group, someone (a shelter employee, a volunteer or a foster parent) can fill you in on whether the dog, usually a mixed breed, is good with children. Spend a little time with the dog yourself and then arrange for a brief visit at the shelter or foster home with the children. If the meeting goes well, adopt the dog. One of the mixed breeds that does well with children is the Labradoodle.
Once you’ve considered all the possibilities and looked at getting a dog from every angle, it’s time to choose a dog. You can also decide to postpone getting one until the children are older, and you have more choices and can match your lifestyle.
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