My First Best Friend – How to choose the right dog for your child

Everyone has their favourite breed of dog, whether it’s a lovable Labrador or a cute Corgi. But you must be careful not to choose your dog purely on looks alone. There are other important factors to consider. Before choosing the breed, here are several practical factors that you need to weigh up.

How much space do you have in your home?

Dogs require space to live and breathe and grow. And the bigger the dog, the more space it is going to need. If you live in the countryside or a rural setting with lots of open space, this is not going to be an issue. But if you live in a city and don’t have a garden or some open space, then it is something you should consider. For instance, keeping a large breed of dog, say a St Bernard’s or a German Shepherd, in a small flat is not a good idea. Similarly some dogs have been bred to be more athletic and energetic than others. Gundogs or sporting dogs, such as Springers, Pointers and Setters, for instance, will tend to demand a lot of exercise. They also tend to love water and may be drawn to retrieve or chase birds, because of generations of breeding. In the same vein, pastoral or herding breeds like the Collie or German Shepherd tend to be attracted to other species of animals and may instinctively try to herd them.

You should be prepared to give these dogs a proper outlet for their considerable energies. They need homes that are going to be up to the challenge of giving them plenty of exercise and play time.If space is a problem for you, then you may be better advised to get a smaller breed, perhaps a toy, such as a Pekingese or Shih Tzu. If you do go down this line, however, you must also consider your children and their age, as we will explain later.

How much free time do you have?

Dogs are demanding, especially those that need a lot of grooming or exercise. So you need to be sure that you have the time to be able to do things like walk your dog every day and groom it properly once a week.You also need to have the time to let it run free in a local park or open space on a regular basis. If you think you don’t have the time to do these things, then you really should think carefully about whether a dog is right for you.

Being short of time needn’t necessarily mean you can’t have a dog. You may be able to ask a friend or preferably a professional dog walker to give your pet the regular exercise it needs. If you have the resources, you can also take your dog to a grooming parlour.

Is the breed you are choosing the right temperament for your family?

Some dogs suit young families better than others.
For example, toy dogs aren’t a good idea if you have very young children who are still spending a lot of time crawling around the floor. Toy dogs can react to small children, sometimes badly. Behaviourists think this is because dogs associate height with authority and see ‘small people’ as a challenge to their status.

By contrast, some breeds are known to be particularly friendly towards children. Some examples include:

​● English Bulldogs, for instance, are acknowledged as one of the most amiable breeds. Despite its gloomy appearance, the bulldog is a placid and dignified dog and is generally friendly with strangers and familiar family members alike.

Labrador Retrievers are the world’s favourite dog breed for a reason. They are not aggressive or hyper dogs and are almost always playful, patient and easygoing. They are also real pleasers, which makes them an ideal pet for a child or family.​

​● Golden Retrievers have a similar personality to the Lab. They too are mild mannered and enjoy being around people, which makes them ideal as a family pet or a first dog for a child. They particularly love playing games with children.

● Poodles are mild and protective dogs and aren’t generally aggressive as a breed. They are friendly and sometimes reserved around people and make ideal pets for children for this reason.​

Are you allergic to dogs?

This may seem a silly question to ask, but many people are allergic to dogs. Generally people react to the dog’s saliva or dander – the tiny particles released from the hair and skin – which can get captured in upholstery and carpets.
You’ll know if you are allergic to this because you will start sneezing and sniffing and your eyes will start running like taps. It’s not pleasant at all, and should be avoided if at all possible. You can also be tested by your doctor for canine allergies.

If you are allergic, however, it needn’t necessarily be the end of your hopes of owning a dog. There are certain breeds that are believed to produce less dander and therefore less of a risk to people who are allergic. These include the Bedlington Terrier, the Schnauzer, the Maltese, Bichon Frise and the Portuguese Water Dog.

Thank you for reading

Thank you for reading this edition of our newsletter series. We hope this information took you one step closer to making a good decision. If you need a bit more time to think, wait for next week's edition, which will discuss your dog's arrival and the things you need to deal with beforehand.

If you'd rather have the contents of the series in a single downloadable ebook format, you can get it here.

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