Adding a dog to your family isn’t something to undertake lightly – it’s a responsibility that should be given careful thought.
If you are thinking of getting one as a family pet, you’ll need to consider which breed will best suit you and your family, in terms of whether you have children, how much exercise the dog will need and its temperament.
Firstly, it’s important to stress that there is no perfectly safe breed of dog. It’s true that some breeds are better suited to a household with children than others, but each individual dog will have its own traits and characteristics.
The golden rule is that you should never leave children and animals (of any kind) unsupervised. The gentlest of dogs can become agitated if handled improperly, and even puppies can hurt a small child with their boisterous behaviour.
Do you need a dog that's known to be child-friendly?
Although a dog can never be 100% trusted around children, certain breeds do have child-friendly temperaments. They include the following:
Shih-Tzu: outgoing, happy, affectionate, friendly and intelligent. A great family pet.
Pug: perky, playful, clever and mischievous. They behave impeccably with children and visitors.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: energetic with a loving nature. They love to please and are usually easy to train.
Border Terrier: ideal for families with active children. Alert and lively, and especially affectionate with children.
Beagle: happy, sociable, gentle and sweet. Excellent with children. But they need firm training, as they tend to follow their noses and may run off to explore!
Staffordshire Bull Terrier: although these dogs are powerfully built, they are tolerant and affectionate with children. A devoted family pet.
Cocker Spaniel: cheerful, sensitive, affectionate and intelligent. Gentle and trusting, so good with children.
Labrador/Golden Retriever: good-natured and eager to please. They crave attention and need to feel part of the family. Patient and gentle with children.
Other breeds that are known to make good family dogs include: Welsh Corgi, West Highland Terrier, Irish Setter, Schnauzer, Airedale, Boxer, Collie, Boston Terrier and Whippet.
Does the dog fit in with your family?
When choosing a family dog, you might also want to take into consideration your children’s habits. A quiet child who’s happy curled up in the corner reading a book will be happy with a placid breed of dog, such as a Pug. But if you have a teenage son who loves sport and the great outdoors, an energetic Boxer dog will make the perfect companion.
Make sure that all children are taught how they should play with their pet. Children aren’t usually aware of their own strength and can be rougher than they intend. It should be made clear, too, that teasing, harming or threatening the dog are unacceptable ways to behave.
How much exercise does the dog need?
When it comes to how much exercise a dog needs, requirements vary hugely from breed to breed. Some have higher mental and physical energy levels than others. These breeds have usually been developed to carry out high-energy tasks, for example herding or chasing game or vermin.
If you decide to take on a breed known for its high levels of energy, you will need to channel or burn off this energy with plenty of vigorous exercise. If you don’t, you’ll end up with an overweight dog or one with behavioural problems as a result of boredom.
Families that enjoy an active lifestyle should be happily able to manage the needs of a dog that requires a lot of vigorous exercise. Such breeds include: Pointers, Setters, Dalmatians, Border Collies, Springer Spaniels, Weimaraner and Foxhound. Obviously, none of these breeds will be happy living in a flat and are often better suited to a life in the country, rather than a city.
Pick a faithful companion
Finally, if you’re looking for a dog that will make a loyal companion, you won’t go far wrong with the aforementioned family-friendly breeds. In addition, if you don’t have any young children, you might want to consider the following: Irish Wolfhound, Scottish Deerhound, Newfoundland, German Shepherd.
And don’t forget the thousands of so-called mongrels out there looking for a home; your dog doesn’t have to be a pedigree for it to be a loving, faithful companion.