Chapter 3
How To Know What Age Dog Is Best For You

What Age Dog is Right for Children

If children live in your household, the question of what age dog is best carries special significance. The right dog for people with children depends on the time available and the age of the children.

Puppies and Households with Children. Puppies are high-energy and, as previously discussed, require more time than an adult dog. Busy households with children simply may not have the time available to raise and train a puppy. If time limitations are present, adult dogs might be a better option, however, the risks associated with fear-aggression should never be forgotten. If you are going to get an adult dog, you may want to consider one of the breeds sometimes called "nanny dogs" that are naturally excellent with children. These breeds can be identified by the Breed Selector Software which can be purchased in a package with this eBook.

On the other hand, because puppies are so active and rambunctious, they may not always make the best companions for children. Medium and large dog breeds grow quickly as puppies and can rapidly reach a size where they can become so rambunctious they knock a child down or accidentally hurt children during play. If you're considering a medium or large breed dog, a more relaxed adult might be a better companion for your children. Puppy enthusiasm coupled with a large breed dog can translate into accidents with children. Again, the Breed Selector Software can be of assistance as there are exceptions to this guideline.

Finally, consider the age of the children themselves. Children age ten or older may be ready to assume some responsibility for raising a dog. Getting a puppy can teach children valuable lessons about animals and responsibility. However, you should always follow-up rather than assume your child has fulfilled the responsibilities they have taken on or been assigned. For some children, having a dog can foster a life-long love affair with all living things. On the other hand, children age nine and under may not be ready for a relationship with a high-energy, high-needs puppy.

Adult Dogs and Households with Children. In many situations, adult dogs can be good pets for children. Adult dogs typically require less of a time commitment than a puppy, so busy households with children may find an older dog better suited to their lifestyle. Adult dogs are more relaxed, which may make them a better choice for children.

Although it takes more effort, owners can train adult dogs more consistently as they're less prone to distraction than puppies. This means that an adult can be trained to sit with a child or walk calmly on a leash so that kids can manage the dog when on a walk (under adult supervision). A puppy can be trained to do this too, but their behavior is usually less consistent.

The most important consideration when adding an adult dog to a household with children is to make sure the dog has been well socialized with kids. A dog may appear friendly and mild-mannered, but could become stressed, over-stimulated, or fear-aggressive in a household with children. Parents can be more comfortable with the idea that the dog will interact well with their kids if the dog has been socialized and evaluated with youngsters.

However, never forget the correlation between age and the likelihood of being bitten by a dog. Most people suffering a non-fatal dog bite are children under the age of ten and they are most likely bitten by a dog they know. Although I know of no study that has linked dog bites in this age group with the animal being mistreated, psychologists are well aware that the age of 10 is about when empathy (understanding the pain something else feels) develops in children. Most experts agree that children, especially young children, should always be supervised when they are with a dog.