How Old Should Children Be Before Getting a Dog?
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How Old Should Children Be Before Getting a Dog?

How old should children be before getting a puppy? Information about getting a family dog. Information for families who have children and are considering getting a dog or puppy? Is a toddler too young to have a puppy? When is the best age to get a dog for my child? How to select a good dog for a family with children.

Many parents think it is cute to get a dog when their children are small. They think it is great to allow their kids to grow up with a dog, and rush out to get a puppy. Unfortunately if the children are too young when a puppy is brought home there is often a disaster resulting in the puppy heading to the animal shelter, or a child getting bit.

About Children

Before children enter school they are quite demanding of their parent's time. Babies, toddlers, and preschool aged children all need pretty constant attention. Parents cannot really leave these kids unwatched alone, either indoors, or out. Young children also tend to have a lot of toys, and are not particularly responsible all the time about putting toys away, nor are they very good at “sharing”.

About Puppies

Puppies need to be house trained. Puppies chew everything A puppy needs to be watched constantly.

Puppies and Kids

As far as house training goes, one of the best methods involves the owner going outside with the puppy as soon as it looks like it needs to go to the bathroom (starts circling and sniffing the ground). The owner must be out with the puppy and immediately offer it a treat reward when it has done its business (if owners wait until the pup is let back into the house, the pup associates the treat with entering the house, not doing its business outside). The problem when having young children is that it takes a while to get the kids ready to go outside too, or that timing can be bad, or that the parent cannot watch the pup, and the kids at the same time. Something suffers – usually the puppy.

The owners then become frustrated that the puppy is not house trained.

Another problem is that pups go through a phase of teething, they will chew children's toys, some of these toys can be a choking hazard to a pup, or the child could try to get the toy back, and get bit in the process.

Additionally parents with young children often fail to schedule time to give the dog proper obedience training. The puppy grows up, and becomes an unruly dog, and is soon unwanted.

Large dogs, and puppies, can knock a child down, even in play, but very often the child then responds in a way which can trigger the dogs predator response. Large playful pups can be particularly dangerous even when they are not aggressive.

Children sometimes have very poor social skills with pets, and can do real damage to a pup. There have been many incidences where children drop small puppies, resulting in broken limbs, or death, of the pup. Children have squashed them by standing on them, and so forth. Some parents even “allow” their children to treat the pup with disrespect – excusing them for pulling a dog's ears, or tails, under the line that the child is young and does not know better.

When children are not taught to respect a pet they risk getting hurt by that pet, or by another animal they treat equally poorly. In the end it is often the pet who pays for the child's poor pet skills. As such we see that families need to think hard before getting a puppy where young children are involved.

dog and child

photo source - note the dog's body language

Points to Note about Getting a Family Dog

Parents may find it is best to wait until their youngest child is at least five years of age, before getting a puppy. They may find the best time of year to get a puppy is when both parents have lots of time to work with the puppy, and supervise the children. Another consideration is getting a slightly older pup, or adult dog, who has been socialized with children and is gentle.

Do not assume small dogs are better with children than large dogs. While large dogs may be able to do more damage if they bite, small dogs tend to be less trusting. It is worth nothing that even a Pomeranian dog is capable of killing a child (one killed a baby in the USA in 2004).

Children and dogs should NEVER be trusted alone together.

Children should never be referred to as the “owner” of the pet. They are not financially responsible for it, and should not be in charge of making day to day decisions in regards to the dog's care. Adults are solely responsible for taking on the lifetime commitment of pet ownership.

Further Reading Before Getting a Family Dog

Questions to Ask Before Getting a Dog

How to Select the Right Dog

Involving Young Children in Pet Ownership

Additional resources:

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Comments (5)

Interesting and well written write.thanks

Great article looking into something not often written about.

Nice presentation and awareness about children and having pets, thank you.

Such good advice!

excellent points, the two dogs were already in the home before I was born, I was taught to handle animals careful from the time I could reach out and touch anything I was taught how to handle dogs and they were taught how to handle me