By Guest Blogger Debbie Barr, a writer with Forsyth Family magazine
If you’re on the fence about whether to get a puppy (or older dog), experts say there are many good reasons to consider saying yes. One research study showed that dogs can help reduce children’s stress level. The ability to cope with childhood stress may result in better mental health in the adult years. Other studies have found that dogs have a positive impact on children’s empathy, happiness, and self-esteem. In addition, caring for a dog can help teach children responsibility and cooperation. But as good as all this sounds, don’t cave in just yet! Before choosing a dog, it’s important to understand why not every breed may be a good match for your family. Here some important considerations:
If your main concern is finding a breed with a temperament that is compatible with children, the American Kennel Club has some suggestions. Its “Best Dogs for Kids” list consists of nine breeds: Bulldog, Beagle, Newfoundland, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Weimaraner, Bull Terrier, and Boxer. Some breeds that may not be the best choice for families with small children include Rottweiler, Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Dalmatian, and Greyhound. However, the kid-friendliness of a breed is not the only factor to consider, especially if one or more of these apply:
The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology estimates that about 10% of all Americans are allergic to dogs. If someone in your family is allergic to canines, don’t despair—you can still adopt a pooch! The answer lies in choosing one of the hypoallergenic breeds. The American Kennel Club web site describes 19 breeds that make good choices for allergy sufferers. Some breeds that are both hypoallergenic and good with kids are: the American Hairless Terrier (with a grooming regimen that consists only of sunscreen!), the Bichon Frise, Poodles, the Miniature Schnauzer, and the Coton de Tulear (pronounced “coTAWN day two-LEE are”). The Coton has a cottony feel to its coat and a personality described by the AKC as “born to love and be loved.”
If your family loves the water, the Irish Water Spaniel may fit right in with your crew. This dog’s coat is not only hypoallergenic, it also repels water! The Irish Water Spaniel is a big dog, standing 21–24 inches tall, with males weighing as much as 68 pounds. The AKC notes that this dog, while playful and affectionate, is better around children when there is adult supervision.
If there are runners in the family, the Weimaraner may be a great choice. This kid-compatible and athletic dog, known for its speed and endurance, makes an excellent companion for runners. Poodles, also kid-compatible and hypoallergenic, are smart, high-energy dogs that are happy to walk, run, and swim with their two-legged family. Other kid-compatible breeds that make excellent running buddies are Shetland Sheepdogs, Golden Retrievers, and Irish Setters. Experts recommend waiting until a dog is two years old before making him or her a serious running companion. This ensures that the dog’s developing bones and joints won’t be damaged by too much running.
Live in an Apartment?
Apartment life calls for a breed that does well in a small space and doesn’t need an abundance of exercise. Breeds compatible with apartment life include two already-mentioned kid-compatible breeds: the Bulldog and the Bichon Frise (French for “fluffy white dog”). Other good kid-compatible apartment companions are the Pug, Shih Tzu, and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
Have an Autistic Child?
Dogs can help any child improve their social skills by increasing confidence and independence. This positive effect can be especially beneficial for children with autism. According to a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 94% of autistic children who had a pet dog were able to bond with their dog. Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and Labradoodles (a Labrador Retriever-Poodle mix) are especially good for children with autism due to their calm temperament and high intelligence.
With more than 190 breeds to choose from, there is a dog for every lifestyle and living situation. So, before you choose a dog, do your homework. You will find a wealth of information on the AKC website (akc.org). There, your family can use the “Compare Breeds” tool to do a side-by-side comparison of the dogs you are most interested in. (Even if you plan to adopt a mixed-breed dog from a shelter, this tool can still be helpful if you know which breeds are involved.) When you’ve weighed all your options and made your final choice, there’s just one thing left to do: go adopt your new four-legged family member!
*This article originally ran in Forsyth Family magazine