Is there a best dog breed for a child?
This question was sent in by Patricia: When looking to adopt a canine friend, what behaviors should I look for that would be a good fit with a 5 year old child in the house?
This is an interesting question since I am wondering if she means the child or the canine! (Just joking Patricia.)
When considering adding a dog to the home, there are a lot of things to ponder.
When there are children present in the household, the biggest task is managing the child (or children) especially when they are under the age of nine.
The first assessment is to take a look at the behavior of the child and whether or not the household is able to manage a pet.
This is very important since kids and pets should not be left together unsupervised.
Believe it or not, a survey of 800 dog owners in a study conducted in 2008 found that a disturbing majority of those surveyed gave unsafe answers when it came to answering questions about dog-child interactions.
I want to get into some details here–not to dissuade you–but so that you can spend some time preparing and educating your household for safe integration.
Most people are not aware that children under nine years of age do not have the impulse control or skills needed to interact safely with a canine and have to be closely coached or monitored when interacting with animals.
Although there is a problem with the accuracy of dog bite statistics (due to failure to report), what is clear is that the highest injury rates are found in children from the ages of five to nine years of age.
An astounding 40-50% of children are bit by dogs by the age of ten.
Kids under the age of six are bit in the face while older children tend to receive bites to the extremities and most of those bites are received from dogs they know.
According to the Center for Disease Control (2001):
In its analysis, the CDC estimates 368,245 persons were treated. Injury rates were highest among 5- to 9-year-old children.
Approximately 154,625 dog bites occurred among children younger than 14 years.
While the rate was higher for boys than girls younger than 14, there was no significant difference in the rate of dog bites between boys and girls older than 15 years, Dr. Gilchrist said.
Non-serious bites tend to be under reported while more serious or fatal bites in the United States average between 20-25 per year (and most involve children).
Now you might have noticed those cute videos of young babies kissing, hugging and climbing on the family dog—all very poor behaviors that should not be allowed.
My whole point in raising all these statistics is to illustrate that when it comes to the proper management of child and pet interactions, most people fall woefully short.
Having covered this, I also have to say that many households already have canines when kids arrive.
Also many households successfully add canines when young children live in the household.
To be successful, there are a lot of variables that have to be pondered to create a good household situation for everyone.
So, I think it is better to ask if your household is prepared to add a canine to the household and then take a look at just what type of canine might be a good fit.
Each animal and household will differ so taking the time to do the research and the time to find a fit is a good strategy.
Ponder the following questions to narrow down the choice.
What size of dog is best for the household?
The answer to this question will depend on the home or apartment you live in. I always love when dogs have a yard but many urban areas do not have them and so smaller abodes might do better with a smaller animal.
However, small dogs can too fragile and be easily hurt by a child. In contrast, a very large, energetic dog might not have any restraint and by its sheer strength or size could accidentally injure a child.
What age of dog do you want to add?
Personally, I’d discourage adding a young puppy to the household because it is like adding another child and will require a higher level of management, training–and damage control.
Will the pet be integrated into the household?
Pets integrated into the home environment have 60% less behavior problems and also are better protectors when incorporated into the family living space.
What type of living space will the dog need?
Needless to say, an apartment with only a patio would not be ideal for a Great Dane. It is important to look at the type of dog that would fit into your home environment comfortably. Also, if you hate dirt, it might be best to look for a breed with a low tendency to shed.
What type of energy level does the breed/dog have?
Although each dog can vary, there are some breeds that are very excitable. They might knock things off the table with their tail and accidentally run over or knock down a child.
How much daily exercise will the pet need?
Large dogs and higher energy breeds will vary in just how much exercise they will need. A tired dog is generally a good dog!
What is the socialization background of the animal?
In addition to the individual temperament of an animal, you want to also look at whether or not it was socialized when young. This happens in a very specific period where the dogs learns dog-to-dog skills and human-dog skills as well as habituation to changes in the environment.
Will the animal be trained professionally?
This is no longer optional, every animal should receive professional training. Obedience training covers the basis commands such as sit, come, down, off, etc., while behavior modification corrects issues that do not work well within a human home.
Can the household handle the financial commitment?
Pets have a variety of needs that include not only food, supplements, toys, leash and collar, beds, etc., but also wellness exams (2 per year), grooming, pet sitting or boarding (for when you go on vacation), and veterinary emergencies or seasonal care.
Will the household commit to a lifetime with the animal?
Animals are not disposable–so committing to provide a lifetime home of 20 years or so is mandatory.
Does anyone in the home have allergies to animals?
Before getting an animal, it is important to rule out allergies. Exposure to animals of all types can reveal a problem. Visits to homes with pets or to shelter facilities can help identify a problem but so can allergy testing.
If renting, does the landlord allow animals?
The harsh reality is that many people obtain pets without the blessing of their landlords. Make sure to get written permission before you obtain a pet if you rent or lease.
Is the dog (or the breed of dog) tolerant of children and strangers?
It is possible to obtain professional help in the selection of a pet and that person can help you identify a good match.
So what is the best breed for a child?
Not everyone will agree on the top pet dogs for homes with kids but I always prefer mixed breed animals since they tend to get the best traits.
It is important to look at what the dog breed you are interested in was bred for since many of those traits will be exhibited within the home.
A Dalmatian, for instance, was bred for running alongside carriages and so is a high activity animal.
A comparison in one dog bite study revealed that Dobermans and German Shepherds were five times more likely to bite than a mutt, lab or retriever.
But ultimately, making a good choice involves taking your time in researching and searching but also by meeting and getting around a variety of different breeds and breed mixes.
Photo Credit: Lexman470