It makes a lot of sense in a lot of different ways: kids do well when they grow up around dogs. Studies have shown, among other things, that small children who have a dog or cat in the home tend to have stronger immune systems. That doesn’t even get into the fact that the younger we condition our little humans to live with pets and to love them, the more likely it becomes that they will one day be dog or cat owners themselves, thereby providing homes for additional furry friends. Millions of families across the United States have pets as members of their “pack,” and that’s the way it’s been for countless generations.
However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still wise decisions that can and should be made with regards to pets if you have small children. While every dog or cat is an individual, there are certain types that generally tend to mix better with young children than others. KONG has been working with pet-owning families for nearly 50 years, and below we’d like to offer some ideas relating to some of the best dogs for small kids based on factors that include demeanor, habits, and the like.
1. A Good, Old-Fashioned Rescue Mutt
If you noticed above, we used the word “types” and not “breeds,” and that’s for a reason – while we will include some breeds below, we’re also focusing on dogs in general and not necessarily purebreds. A good rescue mutt can turn out to be one of the best dogs for small kids, but you’ll need to exercise a lot of due diligence before making a final decision. Go down to your shelter and ask for time to introduce your dog to the kids, and then make sure you’re clear on the return policy if it turns out that your rescue mutt simply isn’t going to work out. If it does, though, you’ll have a loyal, grateful, and happy furry friend that will protect and play with your children for years to come.
2. A Patient Dog
Kids are going to be kids. That means that they’re going to do things that adults know better than to try, and unfortunately some of these kid-type stunts are pulled on dogs. The best dogs for small kids need to be patient and able to endure some stress when kids misbehave. Of course, your job is to instill strict discipline with your children so that they know without a doubt that any problematic behavior toward the family dog will absolutely not be tolerated, but even if the kids are not necessarily misbehaving, their presence can be stressful for dogs. You need a dog that’s accepting of everyone in his or her new pack, even if that means exercising quite a bit of patience from time to time.
3. A Playful Dog
One of the best dogs for small kids is a dog that truly enjoys playing. There’s something magical about watching your children play in the yard with your dog for hours on end, as this is a time when everyone is happy and enjoying themselves and, perhaps most importantly for parents, it’s also a time when everyone is getting tired from exertion. Kids and dogs have quite a few things in common, but one of them is that when they are physically tired, they are satisfied and generally more cooperative. A dog that’s not interested in playtime may not work out well, as the children in your home may be tempted to try to provoke it into playing, and that isn’t always a good idea. Any dog from the retriever family is most likely going to love playing until the point of exhaustion.
4. A Gentle Dog
Given the level of activity, most children enjoy on a day-day basis, there are going to be times when things get a bit rough simply because everyone may be chasing the same ball, they may be wrestling and they may engage in all types of horseplay. Therefore, the best dogs for small kids are those who can engage in this type of activity but still remain gentle. A dog that tries to dominate is only going to create problems for everyone, as it can lead to misunderstandings both on the part of the dog and the children. Irish Setters and Collies are known for their gentle nature, but once again, this variable really comes down to the individual dog more so than the breed.
5. An Obedient Dog
When it’s time to stop playing, it’s time to stop playing. When it’s time to drop a toy that your kids may not want your dog playing with, that needs to happen on the first command. The best dogs for small kids are those that will listen to you. The dog needs to see you as the alpha in the pack and never disobey or ignore your commands. This personality trait can be the difference between a happy and functional coexistence and one that constantly needs to be managed amidst a large amount of stress. While it will require a lot of training for a lot of obvious reasons, many experts feel that the German Shepherd is perhaps the most obedient dog on the planet. Labrador Retrievers are also known as highly trainable, and that’s something that you need to take into account as you search for your family companion.
Finally, if you’re going the rescue route – which is a wonderful thing to do – you may want to lean towards younger dogs if you have small children. That’s because they will generally have more energy than older dogs, who tend to be more set in their ways and more aligned with homes where the lifestyle is slower and quieter. If you’re looking to make the most of finding the best dogs for small kids, you should also include some toys and treats to make it feel totally at home. Check out KONG Club to find items that work best for you. We wish you the best on your search – if it goes well, you’ll be adding a companion to your family that your children will never forget.
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