Dogs and children are a common pop culture image: a happy child with a faithful mutt or energetic puppy. While dogs and children can form deep and lasting friendships, parents also have to be aware of safety and health concerns involved with bringing the two together. Along with the physical and emotional trauma of dog bites, other health concerns like roundworms and hookworms can pass from dogs to children.
Choosing Dog Breeds
When choosing a dog breed for your children, the most important thing to keep in mind is that each dog has its own personality and distinct temperament. Although some breeds come more highly recommended than others, there are well behaved and misbehaved dogs in every breed. The following discussion is based on general guidelines for dog breeds best for children.
Aggressive dog breeds, like Pit Bulls bred as guard dogs, can be safety risks for children. These dogs may not be able to tolerate a child’s unpredictable actions, increasing the risk of dog bites or attacks.
High-energy dogs like Setters and Dalmatians can also be problematic with children. Although high-energy dogs may seem a good pet for children, frequent barking or boisterous behavior can frighten a child. If the dog senses the child’s fears, it may become confused and aggressive.
Small dogs for children are not necessarily a safe alternative to large dog breeds. While some small dog breeds can be prone to biting, they can also be more easily hurt by younger children, who are unsure of how to be delicate with smaller animals. Toy dogs like the Shih-Tzu or the Maltese might be too small for young kids who don’t know how to deal with dogs.
While every dog has a unique personality, some dog breeds are more child and family friendly than others. the following are the top 10 breeds for kids:
- Golden Retriever
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi
- West Highland White Terrier
- Irish Setter
- Labrador Retriever
- Bichon Fries
- Basset Hound.
Regardless of the breed you ultimately choose, be sure to supervise any interaction between your child and your new dog. Along with the proper supervision, obedience training and consistent rules for dogs and children will minimize the risk of dig bites while creating a safe and harmonious family atmosphere.
Puppies and Children
Although you may be tempted to get a puppy for your child, puppies aren’t always the best choice for a family. Raising a puppy requires nearly the same time and energy commitments as raising a child. Do you really have the time to raise an extra “kid?” If the answer is no, an adult dog may be a better choice.
However, if you do prefer a puppy to an adult dog, plan ahead. Discuss rules about how the new dog and children in your family should interact before the puppy comes home. These rules should be simple, such as do not bother the puppy when he’s eating, no rough play with the puppy, and not encouraging nipping, which can lead to dog bites.
Arrange a time to bring the puppy home when the house is quiet and relaxed: Christmas, birthdays, and other events are the worst times to introduce dogs and children. Explain to the children that the puppy needs time to adjust to its new home, and limit playtime with the puppy as the dog adjusts to its new surroundings.
When Not to Mix Dogs and Children
There are situations in which dogs and children aren’t the best combination. If a child has suffered dog bites in the past, getting a puppy or dog will not help him overcome a fear of dogs. Nor should you assume that caring for a dog will teach your children responsibility. While children can help feed, bath, and groom a dog, the primary responsibility for dog care should lie with a responsible adult.
If you aren’t completely committed to owning and caring for a dog, you shouldn’t get one. It may be hard not to give into a child’s pleading for a dog or puppy, but if you as the adult do not want the dog, it’s not a good choice for your family.
Safety and Health Concerns: Dog Bites
Dog bites are one of most parent’s biggest safety concerns when it comes to introducing dogs to their children. As children are at eye level for many dog breeds, dog bites often are directed at children’s faces. Although a dog bite may not cause permanent physical damage, the psychological effects can cause a child to fear dogs for life.
To effectively prevent dog bites, parents should teach both dogs and children clear rules of behavior. Oftentimes, a dog bites to assert his dominance over a child, as he or she would do with another dog. Dogs are pack animals that need to know where they stand in the family hierarchy. They may quickly learn that adults outrank them in the “pack,” but they often assume that they have a higher standing than children. Unfortunately, young children that are eye level to a dog are most vulnerable.
Along with a child’s height, a child’s high voice and unpredictable actions can also trigger dogs to attack. If a child tries to take food or toys away from a dog, the dog may bite as a defense response. This situation can be averted if the dog learns during obedience training that biting any human is not acceptable and that food or toys should be relinquished if a human takes them.
However, while dogs must learn not to bite, children must learn to respect dogs. Consideration for a dog’s space includes leaving the dog alone when he’s eating or sleeping, and not poking, prodding, or hurting the dog. Because small children have a harder time understanding this, it is best to avoid putting dogs and children under six together. Also, no matter how well trained the dog may be, dogs and children should never be left unsupervised.
Dog Bites and Vaccinations
If you have a dog, it’s important to keep his vaccinations up-to-date, including rabies vaccinations. In the event of a dog bite, being able to prove the dog is current on his vaccinations may save him from being destroyed, and the victim of the dog bite from a painful series of rabies therapeutic injections.
Health Concerns: Roundworms and Hookworms
All dog breeds can carry intestinal parasites like roundworms and hookworms that can be transmitted to humans, no matter what age they may be. Humans contract both roundworms and hookworms from dogs by ingesting contaminated canine fecal matter. Because children are not always careful about hygiene, they may bring a hand to their mouth after handling fecal matter, or touching areas infected by fecal matter. Regular de-worming of your dog helps reduce the risk of hookworms and roundworms.