The pandemic saw a huge rise in pet ownership, going from 41% of households to 59% in just one year, and many parents may be tempted to bring a dog into the family.
To help you make that big decision, we’ve teamed up with Dr Charley Gray, an Expert Vet at the canine home-cooking platform, VetChef, to share her thoughts on the benefits of adopting or buying a puppy and how you can make sure it works for everyone in the family.
What are the advantages of having a dog when you have children?
Puppies can act as a bonding force for the entire family. Loving the dog is one thing that every family member can agree on! In fact, many experts believe that pets can now boost your own mental health.
As a vet, I see this in my consultation room – when the dog is sick, the whole family comes in. 14-year-old boys who would otherwise spend most of the day gaming with their friends will carve out a significant chunk of time to spend with the dog (and, by association – the rest of the family).
Dogs also provide non-judgmental comfort for children when they are anxious or stressed. Sometimes, just like adults, children appreciate a friend that will just ‘sit’ with them – without making demands or trying to ‘talk’. It’s very reassuring.
Owning a dog will also keep the whole family more active. Duvet days are a whole lot less common when you have a dog!
Dog walks and activities like ‘playing ball in the garden’ may not seem like much, but it all adds up! It’s good for everyone’s physical and mental health.
What is the ideal age to introduce a puppy into the family?
By two or three years old, most children are able to interact with and enjoy a dog in the household actively. They can also understand basic rules that provide both of them with a safer (and more enjoyable) environment. Just remember to puppy proof your home before introducing your new fur baby.
Which dogs are best with small children?
For me, Labradors have got to be top of the list for large dogs, and Cavalier King Charles are really great if you want a smaller one. Other popular dog breeds can also be great with kids, including Bulldogs, Bichon Frisé, Poodles, Bernese, and all kinds of crossbreeds, but the most important thing is to choose a dog that suits your lifestyle.
An active dog like a Collie, German Shepherd, or Spaniel will need several hours of off-lead exercise and some mental stimulation training every day, so only choose one of these breeds if you are certain you have a lot of time on your hands.
Don’t forget rescue dogs either! Whilst many are not suitable for children, some are excellent. Our childhood dogs were German Shepherds and cross-breeds from rescue centres.
Will getting a dog teach my child to be more responsible?
Yes, it probably will – but remember that young children are not likely to be able to take sole charge of a dog until they are a little older (10+).
Younger children can still play a big part in looking after the dog, and splitting age-appropriate jobs up between family members can be a great way to teach responsibility. The sense of achievement is great for them too! My three-year-old will already help to feed the dogs and cats and is always thrilled with herself for doing it!
Dogs are a tremendous addition to the family. If it were up to me, every family would have one. It bonds the family members together, encourages us all to exercise more, and, let’s be honest – they are just downright excellent fun.
Introduced carefully, children and dogs will share a relationship like no other. I’ll never forget our childhood dogs Kai and Toby, and for all the ups and downs (even the inevitable sad ‘down’ at the end…) your kids will be forever grateful to have had such a loyal friend while they grew up.