Having a dog in the home can be enormously beneficial for your small child. Not only are dogs proven to reduce the likelihood of allergies and other illnesses, but they also provide a lifetime companion for your kid as well as a whole slew of lessons about how to care for another living being. If you’ve finally decided to bite the bullet after a few failed hamsters and guinea pigs, you probably have a few questions about dogs. What are the best dog breeds for kids? What are the best dog breeds that will fit my family’s lifestyle? Are these even valid questions?
Gina DiNardo, the Executive Secretary of the American Kennel Club, wants to make it clear out of the gate that there is no breed that is “bad” for young children. She does, however, say that some are easier and some that are softer and some that are friendly as all get out.
“The only breeds I wouldn’t recommend are very small breeds,” DiNardo says. “Young children can fall on them or hurt them easily by accident and that’s one of the main ways that people get bit.”
If a dog is going to spend time with kids, per DiNardo, it should enjoy roughhousing because that’s going to be their new status quo. Play is good and medium-sized breeds — anything between a beagle and a border collie — are generally the best at playing. Beyond durability, and that’s essentially what the medium-sized criteria speaks to, it’s all about what an owner believes a good dog to be.
“If you get a dog like a Lab or a Golden, they’re going to have a lot of energy,” Dinardo says. “They’re going to be very trainable. But know that they’re going to jump around a lot.” It’s worth noting that the Labrador Retriever recently became the most popular dog in the United States for the 26th year running.
Other dogs, such as Rhodesian Ridgebacks or Doberman Pinschers, are great with families, but ultimately very protective about them, which, depending on what you want in a pet, may be a quality you like.
What’s important to know is that no matter the breed, there will be good seeds and bad. Keep in mind that has nothing to do with the breed itself and probably more to do with previous trauma or a lack of good training. That’s why DiNardo generally recommends that families with babies get puppies, rather than adult dogs. If you don’t want to raise a pup and a baby at the same time, that’s understandable, but there’s no way around the work of bringing a dog into a family.
“You have to do your due diligence,” DiNardo says. “You have to be able to really understand dog body language and breeds of dogs well if you’re going to bring an older dog into your family, especially with children.”
DiNardo still thinks it’s easier to skew young when adopting a pet, no matter if it’s a purebred or a mutt — the initial hassle turns into long-term rewards rather than long-term detente.
“You have the capacity to help mold that temperament and introduce it to all the things that you want the dog to be comfortable around and bring the dog up with the children. That’s not to say, of course, you can’t get a great dog from a rescue, but you must be very vigilant in determining the temperament of that dog before you let it with your children.”
DiNardo, who has raised kids and had dogs at the time, stresses that no matter how well-behaved your dog, they shouldn’t be alone with your kid until your kid is at least 10 years old.
“When I had my child, I had three Doberman Pinschers and they were wonderful. I had nothing to worry about in terms of the dog’s temperament, but I still didn’t leave them alone until my children were old enough to understand how to treat a dog.”
No matter the breed, your kid needs to learn certain rules about your dog. You should never let your kid take your dog’s toy away when they are playing with it, mess with the dog’s food bowl, especially when they’re eating out of it, and never let your kid sit on the dog, tug on the dog, or any other aggressive behavior, which seems fairly self-explanatory.
Whichever kind of dog you choose or at what age you choose to adopt them, DiNardo recommends basic obedience training for everyone.
“We want our dogs to be good canine citizens.” Some of the training could be life-saving for the pet and for you. DiNardo also recommends making your young kids be a part of the training process. “Bring the kids with you to training class, let them watch, let them see what you’re doing. Once you get the dog trained, teach the children how to do the things that you’re learning in training. Basic skills are good for the whole family.”
If you want to know more about specific breeds, visit the American Kennel Club. And as always, be sure to consider adopting, and not shopping. If you do decide to shop, only go through responsible breeders.