Adopting with kids

Here are a few things to consider if you’re thinking of bringing a dog into a family with children.

by Good Dog

Age

When it comes to a dog’s age, it can be tricky to match them up with young kids. For example, puppies are obviously playful and full of energy. Older dogs, on the other hand, may be more tired and less patient for rambunctious energy than younger dogs.

Most shelters will have notes about the dog’s temperament and how/if it gets along with kids. Some dogs may have had bad experiences with children and will be less receptive to their attention. Some dogs may have always lived with children and get along great with them. Ask plenty of questions of the staff at the shelter before making your decision; see if your kid(s) can meet with the dog in a safe environment before agreeing to adopt the dog.

If the dog you’re looking to adopt is a puppy, remember that they are a lot of work. Getting a puppy is on par with having a baby or toddler around; so while they may be right at home with young kids, they may take more energy and attention from you than you realize.

Puppies are also very fragile and are learning how the world works for the first time; kids don’t always understand how to treat animals, let alone baby animals. Make sure to seriously explain how you expect your children to behave around a new dog, especially if it’s a puppy or a toy/small breed.

Size

We’ve all seen, and laughed at, videos where a grown dog accidentally knocks over a toddler with his tail or sits on a kid without noticing. But it’s important to consider the size of the dog you’re adopting based on the size of the children in your home.

With proper training, any dog may be able to learn how to be calm and obedient, even around kids. Bigger dogs will always have an element of risk around very young children simply because of their size; smaller dogs around younger children don’t have the same element of strength. However, they may become more at risk themselves.

No one size is perfect for any situation, so talk to your breeder or shelter/rescue and ask for help finding the right size dog for you.

Breed

When it comes to children, it all comes down to the temperament of the individual dog. Discuss the dog’s behavior and personality at length with the breeder or shelter/rescue you’re working with to figure out, as best as you can, what their past experiences with children have been like. This can be hard to determine if a shelter doesn’t know the dog’s history; and some dogs behave differently in different environments, such as at the shelter versus at your home.

Responsibility

In pop culture, it always seems like kids are given puppies to take care of all the time. If you’re adopting a dog with the sole intention of teaching your child how to be responsible, be prepared to be the dog’s primary caretaker with your kid learning some life lessons along the way. Teaching your kids how to behave around dogs is not only a great thing to learn for interacting with any dog; it’s critical to ensuring success with your own dog.

Taking care of a dog takes lots of time, energy and resources -- all of which shouldn’t have to come from a child. Owning a dog is a great way to play outdoors, go for walks, have a buddy, and learn how to stick to a schedule. But at the end of the day, you’re the one in charge of training your dog and making sure they’re behaving properly. Make sure you have the proper time to devote to a dog, and a family, before bringing one into your home.