So, your family has decided to get a dog. That’s an exciting step to take for any family, but it’s also a decision that has to be made carefully to ensure that the dog that you choose will be the perfect fit for your home and lifestyle. The last thing any family would want to do is have to return a puppy or find a new home for it because they didn’t think it through properly before they decided on the best dog for them.
Bringing a dog into your family is a commitment that could stretch 12 – 15 years, so it’s important to get as much good information about choosing a puppy before starting your search. There are hundreds of breeds of dogs out there, which all were bred for different behaviors and temperaments as well as for different activity levels. Of course, there is an endless supply of cross breed dogs that can be found in any local animal shelter. It can seem overwhelming to work out how to find the one that’s best for you and your children. So, here’s a short guide to help you.
The first thing you need to do is identify the needs of your family and household. Here are some questions to consider:
- Is there an adult at home most of the time? This is important because a young puppy, like any other baby, needs tons of supervision, mental stimulation, training and attention. It also needs someone to be available to let them out to toilet at regular intervals. If there isn’t an adult at home for most of the day, you may want to consider getting an older, trained puppy or even an adult, rescued dog.
- Do you have plenty of indoor and outdoor space? If you have space for a larger, active puppy, that is great. If you’re in an apartment or only have a small yard, you need to get the right size and breed of dog to suit your circumstances.
- Do you have time to provide adequate training, exercise and mental stimulation for a demanding young puppy? Puppies can be very time-consuming. To bring them up to be enjoyable and well-behaved members of your family, you need to put the work in. If you don’t have that sort of time, an older trained puppy or an adult dog from a rescue may be more suitable.
- Can you afford a puppy? This may not the first thing that springs to mind, but puppies can be very expensive. Veterinary care, in particular, can really hit the pocketbook.
Time to get a puppy
Once you’ve thought about these things carefully, it’s time to consider where to get a puppy. It may be tempting to go online and just shop for one that way, but responsible breeders never sell their puppies online. If you’re interested in a specific breed, contact the breed club. Ask them for some recommendations and do some research. In case they are breeding more than two litters a year, the chances are that they are a puppy farm. If they don’t want to thoroughly interview you and your family before selling you a puppy, then they are in it for the money and you’re not going to get the best puppy from them.
If you decide to get a rescue dog, remember that not all rescues are professional and responsible. They should help you to find the right match for you and your family and not allow you to just walk in and buy any dog. Also, they should have done a proper behavior assessment on the dog and be able to give you ongoing support after adoption. They will also want to visit your home and interview your whole family. If they don’t do these things, find a rescue that does.
Dog breeds to consider
If you are just looking for some really basic direction, here are some breeds that have good reputations as family dogs:
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Mild tempered, small and gentle dogs, they can have severe health problems so make sure that you really check that the breeder is highly reputable and does all the necessary health checks before breeding their dogs. These are great for smaller houses and apartments.
- Cairn Terrier: Fun, sweet and feisty they have plenty of energy but love to cuddle. Need exercise and plenty of mental stimulation.
- Poodle: They come in different sizes so you can choose the size that fits your household. They are active, highly intelligent dogs. They need someone who has time to play with them and train them. Poodles don’t molt which is important for some people but do need professional grooming.
- Golden Retriever: Active and intelligent. Most suited to families who like an outdoors life and have plenty of space.
- Newfoundland: One of the giants. They need plenty of space and someone who has time to groom them. Even though they are gentle, they definitely need training for good manners but are known for their gentle nature.
Whatever dog you choose, safety with your children should be your top priority. When accidents involving children and dogs happen the common factor is almost always that there was no adult present. Make sure that both your dog and your children are taught appropriate behavior and how to interact safely. Young children should always be supervised around dogs.
Children who grow up with dogs benefit so very much from the relationship. They learn responsibility, empathy and they also tend to have better immune systems. Make sure you do plenty of research and take the decision to get a dog very seriously, as a dog is for life.