Choosing a Pet Dog Who Gets Along With Kids

A friend recently asked me what type of pet dog she should get that would be good with her two young children.  Like most parents, she was concerned of getting any particular breed that could be dangerous to kids.


My main advice to her – choosing a dog who is suitable and safe to be with kids is not about the breed. Sure, the breed of the pet dog a person chooses is important. However mostly it is important for deciding if you can look after that dog’s welfare by meeting their enrichment needs. Instead, the decision to get a pet dog who will be good with kids is about if the parents  are in a position to always be providing supervision whenever the dog and kids are in the same space.


Different Types of Supervision

This sounds easy, however maintaining the correct level of supervision can be challenging. Particularly when trying to juggle other priorities in life.  The beautiful graphic below by Family Paws Parent Education outlines five types of supervision.  To look after the welfare of our pet dog and kids, we need to practice the proactive and active levels of supervision only.  Planning, commitment and time are all needed to do this well.

Why Proactive and Active Supervision?

These two types of supervision provide the dog and children opportunities to make good decisions about their behaviour. In the circumstance where the child is too young to make their own decisions, it provides the closeness of contact for the parents to intervene before any inappropriate behaviour happens from the dog or child.

Spotting the moment before inappropriate behaviour occurs can be difficult. This is also dependent on the individual dog and child.

We don’t want to wait until the child is overwhelming the pet dog by being overexcited and in the dog’s space. In the opposite situation we don’t want to wait until the dog is overwhelming the child by rushing up to them.  If either the child or pet dog are overwhelmed, then they are creating a memory of when their interaction with the other party didn’t feel safe.  When these overwhelming experiences happen too often, this is when our pet dog or child will start to view the other as unsafe or scary.

In the situation of our dog or child get a little excited, we want to intervene and redirect them to a different activity away from each other. This will give them an opportunity to calm down.

How To Tell If Your Pet Dog Is Overwhelmed

It’s easier for us to determine when the child is overwhelmed simply because we are better at reading human body language. With practice, we can start to learn dog body language to determine those early signs that our pet dog is not comfortable. In our next blog we will talk more about dog body language in the context of being around kids. To get you started, here is a great link about body language of fear from Lili Chin and Dr Sophia Yin.


Want Some Help?

We are here to help if you want support with your pet dog and kids living together safely.  Get in touch with us for more information about what support will best suit you and your family.