Johnny Wants a Dog- Finding the Right Dog For Kids

Your kids have been bugging you for months to get a dog! You’ve put them off for as long as possible but now your spouse is in on it, so you’d better join the club.  How can you be sure you’re getting a dog that will actually be good for them and good to them? Finding an individual dog that’s great with the kids sometimes happens by accident, but don’t be naïve enough to expect Lassie around every corner. If you are bringing the kids to meet the dog, you can do a few simple things to increase the odds that the kids and the dog will all get along.

all kids and Coco

First, learn dog body language. I can’t stress the importance of this, enough. You have got to understand how the dog feels when in the presence of your kids. Lucky for you, I’ve got a canine body playlist on the Willamette Humane Society YouTube channel so you can become a better-than-average reader of canine body language in minutes. Check it out.

Second, know your kids. Are they respectful of dogs? Are they likely to play roughly or intrude upon the dog while he is eating or sleeping? Why do they want a dog? Do they want to brush her for hours every day and dress her in dolly clothes? Or are they hoping the dog will accompany them on long walks through your neighborhood or 100-acre woods? Choose a dog that matches the activity level expected by your family. Choose a physically insensitive, emotionally tolerant dog for your rowdy kids and an energetic, soft-mouthed dog for your go-all day kids and a cuddly, physically tolerant dog that loves to be brushed for the little girls who love to groom.

Next, set expectations before you go. The worst possible parenting move here is to let the kids pick the dog. Would you let the kids pick your car? A dog’s lifespan is 10-15 years. That’s a long time to have a dog that’s not quite right for your family’s lifestyle, long term. Parents pick the dog, period.  Take the kids’ attractions and interests into consideration, but be the grown-up and do the final choosing.

Finally, have a plan B. When you make a family trip to visit the-maybe-your-dog and it doesn’t pan out, know what’s next for the day. If that dog is not your dog, make sure the kids have a next-thing to do. “No, Johnny, this isn’t the dog for us. How about we go get an ice cream while we talk about the perfect  dog for our family?”

Finding the right family dog isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Let your kids be involved and teach them that good decisions are worth spending time on. Finding the right dog is a LIFELONG commitment, so just like every important decision, it should not be rushed. Next week, we’ll talk about how to set your new dog up for success when you bring him home.

Catherine Comden, CPDT-KA

Behavior Program Manager at Willamette Humane Society
Named “the dog lady” by peers in grammar school, Catherine Comden, CPDT-KA first became a California licensed veterinary technician, then finished a BA in Psychology while doing undergraduate research on the human-canine bond at the University of Montana. After that, she was recruited by the Purdue University Veterinary Teaching Hospital to develop the ABC puppy school, to assist during veterinary behavior consultations and to help create and instruct the Purdue DOGS! behavior modification course for veterinary staff. Catherine is now an adjunct faculty member at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon and instructor for the state’s only community college level professional dog trainer certification preparation program which began in Fall 2014.
Catherine Comden, CPDT-KA