Although I don’t have any kids of my own, I do have a 2-year-old nephew and many friends with young kids, so I’m grateful that my dog Kyra is naturally great with children. I still need to work with her on remaining calm when the kids get hyper – and she still tries to lick every baby she sees when no one is looking – but all in all, she would make a great dog for a family with children.
With training and patience, most dogs can behave around children. But if you already have children and are considering adding a dog to your family, you can choose a breed that’s naturally good with kids.
How Children Benefit From Having a Dog
Growing up with a dog in the home is good for children in many ways. Studies show that growing up with a pet is linked to higher self-esteem, cognitive development and social skills.
Having a dog in the home provides many benefits to kids, from increased self-confidence to better immune function.
Dogs also help teach children responsibility, especially if you include them in caring for and training the dog. Learning to feed, bathe and walk the dog teaches children how to care for another living thing, and gives them a sense of self-confidence.
Children’s mental health benefits from having a dog in the home. Dogs improve self-esteem, reduce stress, and provide emotional support and companionship. Dogs can be especially helpful for only children.
Having a dog in the home benefits children’s health by keeping them active and giving them regular exercise. Dogs are even good for children’s immune systems. One study suggests that babies who grow up with a dog in the home were less prone to colds and respiratory infections.
Although having a dog benefits children in many ways, it does require some thought and work to ensure that they get along. Read on to learn all about how dogs and children interact, how to introduce dogs and children, and which dog breeds are best for children.
How Children Should Interact With Dogs
Kids and dogs make a great match, but there are some precautions you should take to ensure a harmonious relationship.
Dogs and children generally make a great match – they both tend to have lots of energy and love being affectionate. However, children can be loud and unpredictable, and so there are a few precautions that parents should take sure that interactions between children and dogs are harmonious and safe.
Noise: As all parents know, children can be extremely loud. As annoying as this may be for you, imagine how it feels for your sound-sensitive dog. Teach children to use a gentle voice around your dog, especially inside.
Space: It’s important to teach your children to give your dog space, especially when they are sleeping or eating. Know the signs that your dog needs and break, and don’t let your children follow them around constantly.
Touch: Children can be rough on dogs, and many dogs will good-naturedly tolerate a lot from their little humans, but you shouldn’t let your children climb on your dog, pull on its fur, ears or tail, or get in your dog’s face. Teach children to be gentle and respectful of your dog to ensure positive interactions.
Even the most patient dog can eventually get fed up with relentless pestering. Just imagine how you would feel if a child was screaming in your face or grabbing you, and teach your children to respect your dog’s space and treat them kindly and gently. Knowing how to read your dog’s body language for signs of anxiety, irritation and aggression is very important for any dog that will spend time around children.
Characteristics of Good Dog Breeds for Children
Certain characteristics make some breeds more suited for families with children than others. The right dog for your family will depend a lot on your lifestyle and the age of your children.
Certain breeds are more suited to families with children, but with patience and training, most dogs can be great companions for children.
Families with Young Children: With young children at home, you’ll want to avoid large, energetic breeds that could accidentally knock over your children, and more aggressive breeds. Choose a medium-sized breed that is known for being gentle and good with children. Life with young kids is already busy, so picking a low-maintenance breed without excessive grooming needs is a great idea.
Families with Older Children: When you have older children who can help more with the dog care and have a better understanding of how to interact with a dog, you can look at larger and more energetic breeds.
Families without Children: If you don’t yet have children, and want to add a dog to your family first, you may be able to get away with a breed that requires more training in the early years. Just be sure to choose a breed that is not known for jealousy or aggression, and keep your future family in mind throughout training.
No matter the breeds, all puppies require a lot of time and care. With a young family, time is scarce, so choosing to adopt an older dog might be a great way to skip the time-consuming puppy phase. You’ll need to invest time in training and getting the dog comfortable, but the time and money savings are worth it – not to mention the fact that you’re saving a life.
Owning a dog is a major financial decision, and families with young children know how hard it can be to stay on budget. Think carefully about whether you can afford the upfront and ongoing costs of a dog, and choose a breed that doesn’t come with high grooming or health costs.
Choosing the right dog for your lifestyle and family will help create a harmonious relationship between your dog and your children.
Introducing Children to Dogs
Kids and dogs are generally a natural fit, but that’s certainly not always the case. Taking care to manage the introduction of your children to a dog will go a long way to ensuring a harmonious relationship going forward.
With proper training and preparation, your dog can be ready to welcome your newest family member.
The introduction process depends on whether the dog or the children come first, and on the age of your children.
Introducing Children to a New Dog: Make sure you give your new dog a few days to adjust to his new surroundings before he’s played with too much. Use this time to train your children on how to interact with their new dog, and post some family rules on the fridge to remind everyone. If you children are very young, make sure the new dog gets plenty of alone time every day, and teach your children how to be gentle and respectful with your dog.
Introducing Your Dog to a New Baby: A new baby can be confusing for your dog, with all the new smells and sounds, and a new focus for your attention. You can help create a bond between dog and baby by getting your dog used to the changes before the baby comes and making sure they get lots of attention when the baby is here. Change up your routine and fill your home with baby smells before the due date. Once the baby arrives, let your dog have a few days to get used to the smell and sounds before introducing them face to face. With a good foundation, your dog will be comfortable with children by the time your baby is a busy toddler.
9 Best Breeds for Children
Some breeds have traits that make them ideally suited for families with children, but your dog’s breed is no guarantee of a harmonious relationship. It’s important to plan ahead and implement good training and habits to ensure positive interactions between your dog and your children.
Certain breeds, like Golden Retrievers, make great companions for children.
1. Golden Retriever
Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular family dogs, and for good reason – they are friendly, sociable and gentle, and they are incredibly loyal and eager to please.
2. Labrador Retriever
Considered “American’s Favourite Dog”, Labs are another very popular breed for families. They are friendly, smart and loyal, and have the energy to keep up with active kids.
Low-maintenance Weimaraners make great family dogs due to their friendly nature and medium size. They do require lots of exercise, so they are ideal for busy, active families.
Dogs teach children responsibility and provide a sense of self-confidence.
Another high-energy breed, Collies make great companions for active children. Their smaller size makes them perfect for younger kids.
5. King Charles Spaniel
The King Charles Spaniel’s lack of aggression and small size make them great dogs for families with small children.
Boxers are friendly, loyal and protective of their families. They are high energy, and require good training, so may be better for families with older kids.
Dogs and children generally make a good match energy-wise.
7. Boston Terrier
For families looking for a smaller dog, Boston Terriers are a good option. They can be intimidated by larger people and quick movements, so may do better with older children.
Beagles are known for their friendly and gentle nature, and these cuddle-bugs love children. Another smaller dog that makes a great addition to a family with kids.
9. Australian Terrier
Toy breeds, like the Australian Terrier, may be intimidated by young, unpredictable children, but they make great dogs for families with older children looking for a smaller dog.
Adopting a mixed-breed dog is a great way to add a canine companion to your family while saving a life.
Bonus: Adopt a Mixed-Breed
Although certain breeds have traits that make them ideal family pets, most dogs can be trained to get along with children – and most children can be taught how to interact properly with dogs! Putting in the time and effort to understand your dog’s body language, provide proper training, and teaching your kids how to treat pets with respect is more important than which breed you choose.
Adopting a mixed breed dog has many benefits. You can combine characteristics from a number of breeds and find a dog with a unique personality. Adopting an older dog lets you skip the puppy phase, saving you time and money. Most importantly, you’ll know that you’re saving a life.
The Best Dog Breeds for Children
Having a dog benefits kids in so many ways, and with a little patience and training you can ensure they have a lifelong harmonious bond.
Kids benefit from having a dog in many ways, from learning responsibility to improved health and self esteem. Kids and dogs make natural companions, as they share energy levels and affection. However, kids can be loud and unpredictable, so teaching them how to treat pets with respect is essential.
Certain breeds have traits that make them ideal family pets – friendly Labs, energetic Collies and snuggly Beagles all make great dogs for children. But the truth is, any dog can make a great family dog with the right training and environment, so adoption is another great choice.
Children and dogs are a match made in heaven, and watching your children build a bond with their dog is incredibly rewarding.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.