What is the Best Dog for Your Family?

Family, Featured Article

Every child remembers the day they got their first dog. If you’re preparing to make that life-long memory for your family, it’s important to do some front-end work to make sure that you find the best dog for your family and make that memory the most amazing one ever! Adding a four-legged friend to your household does take a bit of research. Before deciding on which dog to adopt, take into consideration your family’s lifestyle. Are you active or laid back? How old are the children in your home? What are your children’s temperaments?

So where should you start? The first action should be to hold a family meeting that includes even the youngest child. Talk about getting a dog, make sure everyone is on board, and discuss everyone’s responsibilities before you begin your search so that there are now false expectations. It’s also important to research which breeds work best with your particular family dynamic. We suggest you check out your local animal shelter or Petfinder.com (http://Petfinder.com) to see the different options available.

RELATED: When to Introduce Your Dog to Your Baby

The Right Dog for Your Family
Before you visit a local shelter or breed-specific rescue, consider your family’s lifestyle. “Do you lead an active lifestyle?” asks Diana M. Knight, VMD at South Orange Animal Hospital in South Orange, NJ. “If you spend more time outdoors and enjoy hiking and playing sports, then you will want a more active dog. If you want a dog that cuddles and will sit on the couch while you watch movies, you need a quieter dog.”

Knight continues by underscoring the most important advice of all: “Children should always be supervised by an adult when playing with the family dog.”

So where should you begin? Here’s what the experts recommend:

New Families With Young Kids
Expert Recommendation: Older dog
Whether you have newborns, toddlers or elementary-age school children, always supervise play with the family pet. This is for the pet’s protection as well as your child’s. “You might want to adopt an older dog,” suggests Michelle Besmehn, Dogtown co-manager at Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, UT (http://BestFriends.org). “Many older dogs are quite laid back. They don’t have that puppy energy, which can be good around small children and babies. Still, always supervise.”

Families With Allergies
Expert Recommendation: Hypo-allergenic dog
Look for dogs with hair, not fur. Standard poodles (those are the larger ones) and the miniatures (medium-sized) are quite intelligent and are eager to please. Despite their elegant looks, they make great watchdogs. Plus, they have hair, not fur, which makes them more of a hypo-allergenic dog. Portuguese Water dogs, popularized when President Obama received one for his family, are also hypo-allergenic. These fun-loving dogs are great with children and are quite affectionate and active. They need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation.

Families With a Variety of Personalities
Expert Recommendation: Consult the professionals
When it comes to trying to find the perfect fit when you have a variety of personalities under one roof, Besmehn says, “It’s not about the breed, it’s about the dog.” Here is where an animal shelter worker or volunteer can help. They know the dogs in their care and can recommend one that is right for your family. Before you bring your kids to look at dogs, schedule an appointment to talk to a volunteer or worker at your local shelter or breed-specific rescue. You can ask to see a handful of dogs and narrow down from the selection.

Once you have the selection down to two or three dogs, bring the family. The barking in a lot of shelters can be frightening to children, so see if your shelter has a separate quiet room where the dog can be brought to you. Spend time with the dog, and ask if you can take him for a walk. Observe your children with the dog to see how they interact.

Once you’ve adopted your new family member, the last and perhaps most imperative step is to sign up the family for dog training classes. Children as young as 5 or 6 can participate, and this is will allow you to get comfortable with your dog under expert supervision. And who knows? You may learn a few new tricks!

Michele C. Hollow writes about pets and wildlife at her blog Pet News and Views. She is also the pet columnist at parade.com.

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