“I’m looking for a dog that’s good with kids.” “What dog breeds are good with children?” “Is this dog kid-friendly?” Pet adoptions counselors at animal shelters and rescues get asked those questions time and time again! That despite that according to the 2012 US Census and Reuters, “While married couples with children were the majority decades ago, now nearly 57 percent of U.S. households are childless.” That may be because though you don’t have your children in your home currently, perhaps you’re planning on having them, or perhaps you have grandchildren, or other relatives or friends that have kids that visit, and you’d like a dog who will enjoy being around them as you do. So how do you find a dog to adopt who’s good with kids? Read on…
Since every dog is an individual, even within the same breed, finding a dog or puppy to adopt that is good with YOUR children is a highly individualized search.
Breed? Does breed matter? Certainly, breed plays a genetic role in a pet’s personality and therefore suitability for your children. You can check out what the experts (breed rescuers) have to say about how their breed often does with children in our Dog Breed Information section at http://www.adoptapet.com/dog-breeds
Age? Which is better to adopt if you have kids: a puppy, young, adult, or senior dog? All ages of dogs have their advantages and disadvantages to consider. Puppies will almost definitely need training like housebreaking, not to jump up, not play bite , and not to chew up their toys or grab on to their clothes. Puppies get their adult teeth starting at around four months of age — before that they have razor-sharp baby teeth! Puppies can be unintentionally traumatized by young children who can pinch them too hard in just a second, even when closely supervised — then you’ll end up with an adult dog who may be frightened of children. Puppies are also lot of work! (See our Puppy Manual to get an idea.) Small breed puppies can be very fragile, easily hurt or even accidentally killed if picked up and dropped by a child. It does make for some adorable photos as puppies grow up with children, but adult dogs growing up with kids can be incredibly photogenic too! If you have younger children, you may want to consider adopting a young or adult dog. When you meet the dog, have him or her interact with your children and see if the dog is already trained not to jump up, not to bite, and generally seems to enjoy interacting with your kids. Ask the shelter or rescue staff or volunteer if they know anything about the dog’s history with children. Obviously you should never leave any dog or puppy unsupervised with children – see why here.
Energy level? Just like every kid is an individual, so is every dog. Some kids are more quiet and gentle. Others are loud and enthusiastic! Of course supervision and parenting plays a huge role in how a child interacts with a pet. Some dogs are more quiet and gentle, and they may might prefer quieter children, while other dogs are energetic and enthusiastic, and would enjoy kids that likes to run around! Even within a breed there can be a wide range of energy levels dog to dog. This is another advantage to adopting an adult dog: you’ll have a better chance of knowing what their energy level will be for most of their life with you.
History? One concern some potential adopters have is a rescued pet may have an unknown history. But some shelters and many rescues will have pets in foster homes, often for many weeks to months before you meet them. Many rescues have pets in foster homes with children. This is a great way to know if the pet is more likely to be good with kids like are in their foster home! Even in a shelter, if you are an experienced pet owner and are able to have your kids interact with the pet in a play yard or meeting room, especially if you can have a professional trainer/behaviorist come with you for an expert opinion, you can get a good idea of how the pet interacts with your kids.
You may have a few other criteria, such as you want a small dog because your landlord has a restriction, or a large dog for a hiking buddy, so you could start by running a search on www.Adopt-a-Pet.com for all breeds (leave breed as “ANY”) and select “small” or “large” or any of the other criteria that match your search. In the search results, click on the pets that appeal to you, and then you can see if they say “good with kids” in their My Info section. Just because it doesn’t say that doesn’t mean they aren’t! Asking the shelter or rescue, or going to meet the pet in person will help you and your family find the best match of a pet to adopt for you and the kids in your life.