If you are getting ready to start a family, you might wonder if a dog has any place in your home. The short answer is yes. Dogs make exceptional furry siblings, and they provide a host of benefits for your children from birth onward. However, you should be cautious with your selection, because not all dogs are perfectly suited for family life.
The Benefits of Dogs for Children
Before we get into the best (and worst) breeds of family dogs, let’s take a look at why having a pet is so important for children.
- Having a dog builds immunity. Many kids who grow up with an animal get sick much less often than their pet-free peers. It’s believed that the microbes in your pet’s dandruff teach your child’s budding immune system how to defend itself from viruses, bacteria, bugs, and allergens.
- Dogs are natural protectors. Barring excessively lazy breeds or those built for lap life, dogs are natural protectors, particularly of children. While having a dog doesn’t guarantee that no harm will befall your sleeping baby, their pup pal is an excellent first line of defense in many circumstances.
- Having a pet keeps your children active. Dogs need exercise — and lots of it. The kids will enjoy playing fetch and running and jumping in the yard with their canine companion.
- Dogs are good for your heart. People that own pets may have better hearts than their critter-free counterparts. Many studies have found that people with dogs have lower blood pressure and may be prone to less stress.
Best Dog Breeds for a Growing Family
When you think about the perfect family pet, you likely want a dog that is not only a protector, but that also has a friendly temperament. You should also consider how much hands-on care they will need, especially since there might be several years where your attention is focused mostly on your offspring. An ideal family dog is highly trainable with a reasonably long life expectancy. A few dogs that fit the bill perfectly are:
The labrador deserves a prime spot on our list since it has been the most popular dog in the United States for nearly the last three decades. Labrador retrievers are large and powerful, but are also gentle and loving to even their youngest companions. While they do shed year-round and require weekly brushing, the little bit of work you will put into grooming will be paid back tenfold in love and loyalty.
The golden retriever is one of the most easily-recognizable dog breeds, and while not as popular as their labrador cousins, they also make excellent pets when you have children. Maxing out at around 75 pounds, the golden retriever is a sporting dog that is also fiercely loyal, intelligent, and affectionate. They make great family dogs, because they enjoy playing and have a life expectancy between 10 and 13 years.
For those looking for a lot of love in a small package, consider a pug. While not necessarily a great guard dog, pugs are very playful, and with proper care, can live up to 15 years. They are incredibly loving with their family and were literally bred to be companions. They are small enough not to accidentally squish a toddler during cuddle time, but sturdy enough to handle a little playful roughhousing.
Coming in at up to 10 times the size of the average pug, the Newfoundland is best described as a gentle giant. You may be familiar with the breed if you’ve ever seen Disney’s Peter Pan; the nursery dog was a female Newfoundland named Nana. Newfoundlands are easy-going, protective, and exceedingly sweet with family members of every age.
One of the most famous duos ever to grace the small screen were Timmy and Lassie, a small boy and his collie. While collies are active and need plenty of exercise, once they’ve run their laps, they are happy to veg out on the sofa with the kids during nap time. They respond well to training and typically grow to a max of 75 pounds. The AKC notes, however, that collies are a vocal breed.
Dogs that Might Present a Challenge for a Family
While it’s true that there are no bad dogs, there are some breeds that can present challenges as you try to raise your family, particularly if you are an inexperienced pet owner. These include:
While Chihuahuas are cute and certainly desire love and affection, they are also stubborn and can be tough to housebreak.
Weimaraners make a great family dog, but they are perhaps best suited for children over the age of six. They can handle lots of abuse, but often don’t react well once they’ve reached their limit.
The Komondor is not a well-known breed, but many people find them interesting because of their Bob Marley-esque dreaded coats. It is this trait that makes them a less-than-stellar pick for young children. Their long hair can hide fleas and ticks, and might be enticing for young children to pull, braid, or cut.
No matter which breed you ultimately choose, talk to your adoption center or breeder to find out more about your new pet’s history. Your veterinarian is also an excellent source of information on how to safely cohabitate with family members of different species. Perhaps the best piece of advice, however, is to make sure that you have a camera handy at all times. When you have kids and pets, you will want to capture every memory.