July 23, 2014

Which Dog is Right For Your Family?

kidanddogA kid and a dog- the start of a beautiful partnership. Children’s fondness for our furry friends is probably best summarised by my niece, who once announced she’d watch any film as long as it “had dogs in.”

If you’re choosing a new pet for your family, it’s sometimes tempting to bow to peer pressure. Kids are intensely receptive, often going for a breed for no reason other than “I saw one on the telly” or “my friend Robyn’s got one.” Indeed our own criteria is often based on appearance rather than character.

Dogs aren’t just four legged accessories but part of the family. Since this relationship is likely to last for ten or more years, surely you want to guarantee it’s the perfect fit?

 

Choosing a Dog

Since it’s a family decision, you should all put in your tuppenceworth. Dog ownership isn’t just something you can pick up and put down but a full time commitment. Are you prepared to budget to buy the dog’s food every week? Can one of you go home at lunchtime and spend time with it? Are you willing to give it as many walks as it needs (generally three a day, but it depends on the breed?) Avoid drawing up a rota or anything that gives it the appearance of being a chore- you don’t want any members of the family to resent the new arrival, however subconsciously.

Now it’s time to move onto the specifics. Look around you. How big is your house- would you be able to take dogs over a certain size? A flowing, glossy coat might look stunning in commercials, but have you the time to give such a dog the grooming it needs? What about your family’s health- do any of your kids suffer from allergies? While there is still no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog, some are much better in this respect than others.

Select.Smart  offers an incredibly detailed Dog Selection quiz, bringing up points you might not previously have considered. Would you want your pet to be an effective guard dog? If you’re house proud, could you really put up with one that sheds a lot of hair?

When I took the test, the results were chiefly terriers- no coincidence, since they’ve always been my favourite type of dog. My ideal dog would be lively, intelligent, enjoy walks but not be hyperactive, be sociable and not shed or slobber. If you’re looking for a family dog, you’d want to factor in compatibility with children and other pets as well.

 

Kids and Dogs

It’s natural for a kid to be excited by the new family member. Yet you have to remember that mannerisms which you find cute or funny in your kid might not be perceived as such by a dog. Even the smallest kid is larger than many dogs, and if the kid behaves in such a way to make the dog feel threatened, it may well provoke the dog’s temper. The earlier the kid’s made to see things from the dog’s perspective, the better.

Is your child a bit of a foghorn? Do they have a tendency to invade people’s personal space? Do they keep picking up your dog and hauling it around even though you’ve told it several times not to?

Quite recently I was sitting in the park, watching the world go by. A little boy was left to mind the family dog- he couldn’t have been more than four. I have rarely felt so angry- first that a small child was given a much older one’s responsibility, then at the way the kid was treating the dog. He wouldn’t stop poking it and at one point even tried to sit upon it (the dog being a Jack Russell). I’ve never wanted to intervene so badly, but knew I’d only be told to mind my own business.

For further advice, read this blog by Dr Sophia Yin, an animal behaviour specialist.

 

Training

Dogs aren’t saints and it’s wrong to expect them to be. Even the most placid can occasionally have outbreaks of naughtiness- my friend’s elderly boxer regarded anything in a bag as ‘his’, and decorate the room with it (most memorably a sack of potatoes).

If you want your new pet to rub along comfortable with the rest of the family, dog training is a must. Not only will it cure it of such undesirable tendencies as jumping up and doing its own thing out on a walk, it’ll help curb its aggressive tendencies. Ideally you should begin as soon as possible; organisations such as Clever Dog Company offer excellent puppy training classes in a relaxed environment, encouraging the dog and owner to have fun and bond as they learn.

My friend’s dog Oscar was an infuriating little pest when she first bought him. Noisy, wilful and a real attention hog- he hated it if you paid any attention to Lady, the dignified older dog. Having gone through an intensive program, he’s still an extrovert, but an endearing one. It’s nonsense to suppose that curing them of “naughtiness” will rob them of character.

 

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