Pet Parents Do the Work Before Adding a Pet

best dog for a child

Above: People thing kids with pets are cute but incorrect handling of a pet can result in a bite or other injury to a child.

A while back I wrote a long article about the Best Dog for a Child and it got me to pondering why people think there might be a simple answer to that question.

First, there are a lot of variables that enter into the equation and then there is the important rule many people seem to ignore–kids and pets should never be left together unsupervised.

Luckily, pet parents do their investigative work and preparation before they get a pet but, believe it or not, there is still a big problem.

What I find fascinating as a professional behavior and training consultant (in my field since 1975) is that people perpetuate really poor information and believe the information they obtain–which can result in disastrous consequences.

For instance, you might not be aware that in a 2008 survey of 800 dog owners, it was found that a disturbing majority of those surveyed gave unsafe answers when it came to answering questions about dog-child interactions.

This means that they are likely to get someone injured or bit due to their ignorance on the topic.

The disturbing trend found in this study created additional concerns because the people surveyed were very savvy and dedicated pet owners!

This does not bode well for the rest of the pet owning population.

In fact, this is pretty apparent when you look at the dog bite statistics:

  • 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.

On of the reasons I began to work on the Pet Parenting School is because people really need a resource they can access easily and where they also can get quality information to prepare and educate themselves about pet parenting.

Part of that process is prepping the household for safe integration of a new animal.

So, just what should be considered before adding a pet?

A whole list comes to mind, but here are a few from the other article (Best Dog for a Child)

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.

I’d be interested in your opinion on the best dog for a child, or what tips you might add–just leave your comments below or at my Facebook community.

Before you leave, be sure to sign up to the list for the early bird notification on the Pet Parenting School.

Photo Credit: Savannah Bunny

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