The Family’s First Pup

Thinking about getting a family pooch? Dogs can make fantastic companions for your kids, but before you start picking out names or shopping for chew toys, here are some things to consider.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. What are some potential cons to getting a dog?
Dogs are time consuming. Maia Brusseau of Denver’s Dumb Friends League says, “If you’re a busy family that’s not home often, it may not be a good idea to adopt a dog, especially a puppy. Consider other pets that don’t require quite as much time, like a cat.”

What about the pros?
Dogs are great for helping kids develop important character skills. “Dogs can enhance a child’s self-esteem and sense of empathy,” says Brusseau. By giving kids a small, dog-related chore to complete each day or week, they’ll learn how to be responsible and how to take pride in their work.

What should parents teach their kids when it comes to caring for a dog? Sometimes a child’s displays of affection can be perceived as threatening to a dog. Brusseau advises teaching your kids to pet the dog under the chin rather than giving hugs or reaching over the dog’s head. Treats should always be held out on an open palm. And kids should be taught to respect a dog’s space, especially during mealtime.

What breeds are best and worst for kids?
Brusseau says that a dog’s personality (which depends on more than just genetics) is just as important as breed. Provided a dog is friendly, sporting breeds like Labradors and Golden Retrievers often make great family pets, along with sturdier small breeds like pugs or beagles. Brusseau says very small breeds, like chihuahuas, are not the best choices for kids, nor are chows, rottweilers, border collies, or shepherds.

How about dealing with problem behavior?
“If you are having difficulties as a new pet settles into your home, call our behavior help line,” says Brusseau. This free resource is available to any pet owner. Calls can be scheduled through the Dumb Friends League website.