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Choosing the perfect family dog

When choosing the perfect dog for kids, there are a lot of considerations. What breed of dog is best for your family? Who will care for the dog on a day to day basis, including when you’re at work and the kids are at school? How much does owning a dog cost? The list goes on and on.

Overall, it’s important you find a companion that is right for your family. Here are five things to consider:

1. Now may not be the right time.

I grew up with a poodle named Pepe who was a lovable, high strung, barker. My mother saw an ad in the paper and rescued him from a terrible life. He suffered separation anxiety, which only got worse as he got older. While he was hypoallergenic and enjoyed being around people—including kids of all ages—I am not sure he was truly the right fit for our family.

Owning a dog is a lifestyle choice. Before adopting, think about the time you have to spend exercising, training, and caring for them. A teenager and two tweens in a household with two parents working full-time like my family was, may not be the best situation for a high strung dog...or any dog.

Even if you live in a house with a fenced yard, a dog needs to be walked so they get to know their surroundings and experience new sights, sounds, and smells. They need to work out their energy and exercise their mind, so they don’t destroy your property.

2. Selecting a breed takes time.

In addition to the time it takes to care for a dog, there is also the breed to take into consideration. Following Pepe, I rescued a black lab mix named Fathom. He was a gentle giant who loved kids of all ages. While I am pretty sure I was allergic to him, it didn’t matter because he was sweet, and I could take him anywhere.

Now I have a terrier mix named Stanley, who we got when he was a puppy. Thinking that he was super cute and not taking breed into consideration, I adopted him on the spot. While it has worked out, I don’t recommend adopting a dog without thinking about the breed. (Breed factors to consider: temperament, grooming, energy/activity, trainability, health and breed-specific conditions, etc.)

What I’ve learned about this dog is that he has a stubborn streak which is consistent with his breed, and he needs more exercise than either of my other dogs. He is good with older kids like my stepsons, who were tweens and teens when we got him, but Stanley will lovingly push over smaller kids.

Tip: If you’re worried about allergies and asthma, there are a variety of hypoallergenic breeds to consider when choosing the perfect dog for kids.

3. Training takes time.

Two of the best things we did for Stanley were to crate train him and send him to doggie daycare. Crate training was relatively easy because we work from home and were able to let him out as needed, and crate train throughout the day. If you don’t have someone to check on a puppy every couple of hours, especially when they’re less than a year old, consider an older dog who is less likely to have accidents while you’re away.

Doggie daycare provides mental and physical stimulation with other dogs and humans, a key to socialization, but it comes with a price tag. While we can pay each time he visits, we prefer to purchase multiple visit packages which are more affordable. He can also stay overnight for an additional fee. We think it is important for him to have that kind of experience and we can see a difference in his behavior; there is less excessive barking, for example, when he is active and socialized on a regular basis.

4. When choosing the perfect dog for kids, consider the cost.

Dogs make for fun social media posts, but that’s not all there is to owning them. Often dogs are returned or sent to the pound because their owner cannot afford them. It’s a shame, and it is heart wrenching for the animal and the family. So, consider these factors when determining the costs of pet ownership:

  • Purebred vs. mixed breed. A shelter or rescue adoption of a mixed breed dog will likely cost significantly less than purchasing a purebred. And you could save a pet who would otherwise be overlooked or euthanized.
  • First-year costs. The first-year costs of adopting a dog may include a spay/neuter fee ($200), medical exam and vaccinations ($70), collar and leash ($30), food bowls ($30), crate ($100-200 or more for larger breeds), and dog training ($110).
  • Ongoing costs. Reoccurring costs like food and treats, vet exams and immunizations, licensing, dog health insurance, and other pet-related expenses may total $700 per year or more.

5. Avoid the pitfall of the holiday surprise puppy.

While it seems like a great idea, I don’t recommend choosing a dog as a holiday gift. This is especially true if it is the second or third dog in the family or if your kids are young. The new prospect should meet the other members of the family before adoption is finalized to see if they get along. Not only that but you may be home for holiday break to care for a puppy, but you will go back to work at some point—so, who will care for the dog while you’re at work? It’s an important consideration.

I follow dog rescue sites and it breaks my heart to see dogs (and cats) who are adopted only to be returned because the owner didn’t have the time or inclination to care for them the way they needed. Don’t let that happen to your family pet. Take time and research before choosing the perfect dog for kids!

Editor’s Note: If you have made the decision to add a furry addition to the family, don’t forget the essentials. We’ve prepared this ultimate puppy checklist for bringing a new dog into your home.


Anne McAuley Lopez is a professional blogger and the founder of Blogging Badass. Since 2010, she has worked with clients to create content that tells the story of their business and connects them to their target market. It could be argued that she knows entirely too much about termites, retirement planning, court reporting, Alaskan fishing and mining, and social media—which makes her a great blogger and trivia night partner. When she’s not showing off her mad skillz, Anne can be found spending time with her husband, watching romantic comedies, eating tacos, or walking her dog.

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