If you do a Google search, you are likely to find numerous lists of dog breeds that are deemed “kid friendly.” Many of these lists are based on a breed’s temperament characteristics and size.
For instance, if a dog breed is considered “gentle,” “patient,” “low maintenance,” “hardy,” or “easy going,” that might put it on the list. On the other hand, breeds considered to have “high prey drive,” be “territorial,” “dominant” (this one particularly bothers me), “aloof” or “standoffish” would never make the cut.
Unfortunately, breed temperament characteristics are based on “breed standards,” or ideals, not scientific absolutes. These standards are written by a particular breed’s recognized club or group as an ideal for breeders to strive for in their breeding programs.
This can only be accomplished if all breeders agree to limit breeding only dogs that as closely conformed to those standards. However that doesn’t happen as there are no rules or laws governing dog breeding.
Anyone can breed any dog he/she wants and as a result, individual dogs within a breed are widely varied in conformation (looks), type and temperament. This is not to say that some characteristics within a breed do seem to be inherent and certainly driven by instinct.
However, just as much is influenced by that individual dog’s upbringing and experience.
Rather than rely on lists, here are some other factors besides breed that can help determine a dog’s possible suitability for children:
1) What are the ages of the children? As a general rule, I do not recommend very small toy breeds (10 pounds and under) for homes with very young children (aged 10 and under). Small toy breeds are very delicate, especially when they are puppies, and can be inadvertently injured when handling too roughly.
On the other hand, some large and powerful breeds are a challenge even for adults to train and manage. Expecting a dog to be a child’s “babysitter” because it is large is never a good idea. First and foremost, they are animals, not surrogate humans.
2) How active are the children? If a child is very quiet and easy going, dogs with boundless energy and the need to “go, go, go” might not be a good fit.
On the other hand, if the child is the one who is always on warp speed, a dog that is slow moving and normally doesn’t require much exercise might also be a frustrating match. It makes for a much more harmonious union when both child and dog energy levels are in sync.
3) If getting a puppy, inquire specifically about the parents, both of them. An even better gauge of a dog’s temperament other than merely its breed is a dog’s specific sire and dam.
Some questions to ask are: does either currently live with children and is it possible to observe their behavior while interacting with those children (either in person or on video)?
If this can be accomplished, carefully observe and determine whether or not the dog was comfortable, accepting and respectful of the child’s space. If for some reason the breeder either can’t provide or refuses, consider that a red flag.
4) And lastly, how much time is the family willing to train and socialize the dog, as well as supervise interactions between the dog and children?
Cats and dogs are supposed to be natural enemies, however I know many who not only live harmoniously together but actually are attached to one another.
This bonding doesn’t happen by accident. It usually occurs when the dog and cat are raised together in a well managed and positive household where a mutually respectful relationship has been encouraged.
This can be the outcome between dogs and children too, irrespective a dog’s breed.
Stafford business owner Laurie C. Williams is an author, television and radio personality and nationally recognized dog trainer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.