Children and dogs can be the best of friends. But every dog is not right for children and not every child is right for a dog.

Choosing the right dog

The vast majority of dog/child problems involve when your child is five or six years old. For your children special care should be taken before choosing a new dog. Large dogs that have been bred as guard dogs or have a history of being aggressive or biting should be avoided. Large, high-energy dogs that can knock children over or dogs that bark excessively would not be good choices, as well.

Parents with small children are usually very busy; they often do not have the free time or desire to spend hours grooming or walking a high maintenance dog.

Initially, puppies require almost as much time as a child does, so ask yourself if you are ready to bring a new puppy into a home that is already too busy.

By the time children are seven or older some of them are ready to start to develop a rewarding relationship with a dog. Dogs can help teach a child responsibility, patience, empathy, and compassion, but remember, no young child is capable of properly training or completely caring for a dog, so the parent must always ultimately take full responsibility for the pet.

When you bring the puppy home make sure it has several days to adjust to its new surroundings.



Dogs and little masters

Dogs have a unique relationship with people. As the understanding of the 'pack' mentality becomes more prevalent, it becomes easier to see why dogs act the way they do. Understanding and altering dog behaviour revolves around understanding dog behaviour and the importance of dominance and submission in the dog psyche.

In dog's mind the family is often a pack unit and everyone in that family has a certain 'position' in the pack. In most families, one or both of the parents are considered the pack leaders and the dog is subordinate to them. Now depending on the dog, this may be very obvious or it may not really matter much. But when small children are involved, it has been my experience that dogs almost always consider the children equal or lower in the pack hierarchy than they are, and this is where the problem arises.

Because the dog considers the child a subordinate, it may refuse to obey the child's commands or 'accidentally' bump into the child and knock him or her down.

It is essential that the parent understands this hierarchal relationship and takes precautions to prevent problems from arising. Such behaviors are an indication that professional help, such as your veterinarian or an animal behaviourist, are needed.


** A word of caution - Dogs may bite children

When dogs bite adults it is usually out of fear and perhaps out of aggression. When dogs bite children many times it is just a 'warning bite’ - which could be traumatic for the child, but is often not serious in a medical nature.