kids

From Cavoodles to Staffys: Just 10 of the best family dogs for households with children.

When you have children or are thinking of starting a family, the decision to introduce a pet to your household can become a little… tricky.

Certain thoughts come to mind, such as: What if the dog is too rough with the baby? What if my young children are too rough with the dog? What if we don’t have enough time to meet the dog’s exercise requirements? And what if the dog doesn’t fit in with our family?

These are all very real concerns, after all, the decision to adopt a dog and give it a loving home deserves lots of consideration – especially if you have a young family.

Lara Shannon, dog trainer and behaviourist and host of Channel 10’s Pooches at Play, spoke to Mamamia about how to choose a dog breed that will complement your family and be beneficial for the pooch as well.

Listen to Mamamia Out Loud, Mamamia’s podcast with what women are talking about – this week the team discuss dogs in public. Post continues below.

What to know before you even look at breeds.

Before jumping on PetRescue or Gumtree, there are important things you should think about – ask yourself how much time you can dedicate to training, walking the dog and spending time with the puppy and think about the costs associated with desexing, vaccinations, obedience school and pet insurance.

Be sure to take the time to think about what energy levels and temperament would be a good fit for your family, and remember: just because a puppy is cute, it doesn’t mean it will fit in with your family’s lifestyle.

“Whether you are getting a new puppy or adopting a rescue dog, you need to do your homework,” Shannon says. “Research the common traits/temperament of the breed you are thinking about.”

Things Shannon says to consider:

  • What are their common health issues and dietary considerations?
  • Do they have specific exercise needs – mental and physical?
  • If you are looking to rescue, ask about and ensure you understand any behaviour issues a particular dog may have. Are you equipped and prepared to put in the time and money that may be required for training and veterinarian care, particularly for any fear and anxiety, aggression, phobias or health issues they may have?
  • I would also suggest that if you are giving it to the children pestering you for a dog, that you look at fostering a dog first to ensure you are ready for a dog, and you can see if the children are actually going to help look after it, which they all promise to do at the start…which very few follow through on.

The best family dogs for kids.

So if you’ve thought about the costs, training and exercise requirements and still want to introduce a fur baby to your home, how do you know what is the right breed?

Shannon says not every dog suits all lifestyles, and if we don’t get it right, it can cause issues for both the human and our furry family members.

“When it comes to families with children, breeds that are known to be patient, resilient and friendly are important to choose,” she says.

Dogs that are great with children and teens of all ages include:

  • British Bulldogs
  • Beagles
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Gentle giant breeds (see below for a breed breakdown)
  • Boxers
  • Mastiffs
  • Vizslas
  • Cavoodles and other ‘oodle’ variations
  • Staffys
  • BITSAs

What you need to know about the breeds.

It’s worth noting that while dog breeds generally have similar temperaments and energy levels, every dog has its own unique quirks and traits.

British Bulldogs

“The British Bulldog is particularly great with kids of all ages who can be a little rough as they are built a bit tougher than some others. They are known for being very friendly, pretty docile and laid back and are very loyal,” says Shannon.

“The Australian and American Bulldogs have longer legs and can go a bit faster, so are good for keeping up with teens wanting to take them out and about, but not for anything too strenuous.”

english bulldog
Bulldogs can be a wonderful addition to a family. Image: Getty.
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Beagles

"Beagles are great for families and kids of all ages as they are compact and generally pretty calm, but they also love getting outdoors and exploring for so could join teenagers out looking for some adventure, too."

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

"The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a great all-round dog that is fantastic with families with children of all ages."

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dog
Cavaliers are terrific family dogs. Image: Getty.

Gentle giants

Larger dogs can have terrific temperaments and fit in well with families, but Shannon says to be cautious about their size.

"The gentle giants – the Bernese Mountain Dog, Newfoundland, the Golden and Labrador Retriever and Irish Wolfhound are friendly and loyal and make wonderful family pets, but in small spaces or around toddlers their large size could pose a problem."

Boxers

"Boxers are both energetic and affectionate and are known for their love of children, but they are very bouncy so wagging bums and their energy need to be considered around toddlers."

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Mastiffs

"Mastiffs, despite their size and look, are also very gentle with children and are also very protective of the family they love."

Vizslas

"The Vizsla is sensitive, affectionate and gentle, they are also very loyal and energetic so are particularly good for active and energetic families with older kids, particularly those that are keen to get involved in training and obedience as they will excel at this."

Cavoodles and other 'oodle' variations

"The popular cavoodles, spoodles, labradoodles and groodles also all make great family pets, though their size can vary greatly depending on how big or small the Poodle parent may have been, so don’t get caught out there.

"I’ve seen many a cute groodle puppy quickly become a massive bouncy ball of fluff that continuously knocks a toddler off their feet with its exuberant and energetic displays of love."

Staffys

"The Staffordshire Bull Terrier (commonly known as the Staffy here in Australia) has a known affinity with children. They are friendly and tolerant, and quite fearless so they love to get involved in any activity which is great for older children as well," Shannon says.

However, Shannon cautions that Staffy owners need to be prepared to do lots of training.

"They do like to be with their family as much as possible though and they won’t back down from a challenge so you do need to ensure you are committed to dog training and obedience and everyone in the family is consistent with their leadership, children included."

BITSAs

Then there are BITSAs, which are a mix of a large number of dogs.

According to the BITSA website, "A True BITSA does not have a primary, secondary or distant breed, because they have been created by mixing a unique blend of a large number of dogs for so many generations that no single breed is currently detectable in its ancestry."

And there is certainly nothing wrong with that. In fact, Shannon owns a BITSA named Darcy.

"Then there is always a little mutt like my dog Darcy, who loves nothing more than cuddles with kids, so don’t overlook those ‘BITSAs’, but just do ask about temperament if they are a crossbreed and if rescuing or ask the breeder about the parent’s temperament with kids."

Watch: The rich dogs of Instagram are living their best lives. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia
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Choosing a puppy.

After you've found a breeder or a dog at the shelter that you are interested in, it's important to spend as much time with them as you can so you can see how they interact with children. And if you are getting a puppy, you may also see how they interact with their parents and siblings.

Shannon recommends keeping an eye on whether they are "shy and withdrawn, or aggressive to the other pups and the mother".

"If so, look to getting the one that is more engaged in fair play with the other pups, can handle a bit of ‘stick’ from the other pups good-naturedly and has a bit of confidence, in a laid back loving way," says Shannon.

On the other hand, if you have chosen to adopt an older dog, be sure to speak to the shelter about any potential red flags or behaviour issues.

"Generally, they will not place a dog they feel is not right with a family with children, but again you do need to spend time watching the dog interact with other dogs and people to really see how they react.

"Take the time to watch their body language (you can find out more about this on my website Pooches At Play) and if they show signs of anxiety, fear or fear-based or aggression in general, this is not for children."

Lara Shannon is a dog trainer and behaviourist and host of Channel 10’s Pooches at Play. For more information and advice on getting a puppy or adopting a dog and other training tips visit Lara’s website at Pooches At Play.

Have you got a family-friendly dog? What breed is it? Tell us in the comments below.

Feature Image: Getty.

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