Post written by Jordan Kendrick, Dog Trainer
When deciding if adding a dog to your family is the right choice, there are several features of your family and the prospective dog which need to be kept in mind. It is possible to make the adoption work in most cases but seeking out the best match will make the process so much smoother.
How old is the child? How mature is the child? With an infant, do you have the time and support to take care of a dog? You are essentially going to have a second infant for a few weeks while the dog adjusts. Do you have enough space for the dog and baby both to have their own safe space
With a toddler can you ensure that the dog and child never interact without supervision? It is absolutely imperative that a dog and toddler are closely supervised during all times they are interacting directly.
Early school age children (5-9 years) consider the maturity of your child. Your child may want to help with the routine care tasks with the dog which can help in a multi-child household.
Teenage kids are similar to early school aged children with regards to maturity being an important aspect to consider and their ability to take on routine care tasks. Consider how well your child knows/is able to learn the indicators in the dog’s body language where they should remove themselves from the dog’s vicinity.
Consider the activity level of your child. A very active, never still child can easily overwhelm a nervous dog.
Most dog bites in children occur in the toddler and early school age range with the majority of bites being to the child’s face. In the USA, 4.5 million dog bites occur with 800 thousand of those requiring medical attention. 51% of all dog bites are to children. Boys are more likely than girls to be bitten. This is why it is so important to choose the right dog for your family.
Puppy under 4 months: a lot of work and time. They do sleep a lot of the day but need to be taken outside every 30-90 minutes for housebreaking. They need to be supervised pretty much the entire time they are awake and outside of a crate/puppy play pen. They have very sharp teeth so they can easily break the skin, even during relatively gentle play. During the night, they do need to be taken outside every couple hours. They have no manners yet and you would be starting from the very bottom training those.
Age 4 months-8 months: Usually house breaking is mostly solid with minimal accidents. They still need frequent potty breaks, usually every couple hours. Teething is a big aspect of this age range. They will begin to chew on everything they can to soothe their sore gums which can include any toys and other items your child might leave on the floor. They usually have decent manners.
Age 8 months- 7 years: Adult dog: Usually a dog who is very solidly set in their behaviours. Their temperament is well established but their temperament may not be what you see when choosing your dog from a shelter environment. It may take a while to see your dog’s true temperament as they acclimate to their new environment.
Age 7 years+: This marks the point a dog is now a senior. This is when you need to consider the financial constraints of age related illnesses within the next few years. Ensure you have considered how well your child would handle the topic of death. Adopting a senior dog is such a kindness and can be so rewarding. You absolutely could have a decade of good quality of life so please don’t rule that out as a possibility completely. On a more positive note, the dog is usually a very solid dog. They may start to slow down or have arthritis which may not be suitable for a young, very active family.
In puppies, there is a very wide range of sizes the puppy might be when fully grown. If you choose a puppy you need to be prepared for a small or a large dog.
Toy (10lbs/4.5kg): May be too fragile for a toddler as toddlers are quite clumsy. One fall can hurt the dog quite seriously.
Small (30lbs/13.5) May see child as more of a pet and be quite mouthy with your child.
Medium and large (60lbs/27kg) (100lbs/45kg) :Perfect height to grab food from the hands of early school age children and off tables.
Giant (100lbs/45kg+): May easily hurt a child during play
It is easier for a low energy dog to adjust to a home with a family who spends a large amount of time outdoors. The dog can be left at home or build up more endurance over time. On the other hand, the family can adjust to a high energy dog by increasing their own activity. Another option is to find activities to occupy the dog such as scatter feeding, fetch, or scentwork.
consider how much time you spend at home. Some dogs have a difficult time being left home alone or not as the center of attention.
Type of home
An apartment makes it more difficult to let a large dog out to potty or housebreak a puppy. A small dog in an apartment can utilize an indoor potty patch or a balcony potty patch. A house with a yard gives you a significantly greater flexibility with a dog.
Nothing in this means you can’t have any dog in any of these situations. These are just considerations to have in mind when searching for a dog to add to your family. With changes to your life, you can make it work. I’m wishing you all the best in your search for an additional family member and that the transition happens as smoothly as possible.