If your child has been clamouring to be allowed to have a dog for a long time and they have demonstrated to you that they are mature and responsible enough to help to take care of the dog, or even be the main owner and carer for a dog under your oversight, choosing the right dog to get the relationship off on the right foot is vital.
There are numerous benefits to pet ownership for children, including teaching responsibility, empathy, safety, and a wide range of other life skills – but if you don’t make the right choice when it comes to your child’s first dog and how the process is managed, things can easily go wrong.
If you have decided that the time is right to get your older child their first dog and you want to make sure that the process of choosing and caring for the dog goes as well as possible, we will share some tips and advice in this article. Read on to learn more.
One of the first things to decide upon is whether to get a puppy or an adult dog, and there are pros and cons to both options.
Getting a puppy means that your child and dog can grow and learn together, and will usually have many years side by side – but if your child is in their teens and will be leaving home in a few years, will they be in a position to take their dog with them, or will it be left with you?
Additionally, training a new puppy from scratch can be a great learning experience for children, but it can be difficult for a first-time young dog owner who doesn’t have a lot of experience with dogs to manage, and has more scope for problems if this isn’t handled carefully.
An older dog may be a better option in many cases because the dog’s personality will already be established, so you know what you will be working with – and the dog is already likely to be able to perform at least basic training commands, as well as being house trained.
Making the decision to make your child’s first dog an adopted or rehomed dog has a lot to recommend it – not only will you be able to give a dog a second chance at life, but it will also teach your child a lot about responsible dog ownership, and what happens when people breed or take on dogs that they can’t care for or manage.
You will also have a lot of choice available if you choose to adopt a dog rather than buying from a breeder, and won’t have to narrow down your search to specific litters and breeds, instead waiting for the most suitable dog to come along.
However, if your child wants to get involved in dog showing or has their heart set on a certain type of dog, or if it is very important to you to know what you are getting in terms of the dog’s likely behaviour and temperament, buying a dog from a known pedigree breed might be more appropriate.
When you have decided to allow your child to have a dog, it is important to ensure that they understand that it has to be the right dog, and that the right dog might take some finding.
Most kids will be really keen to own a dog immediately and fall in love with every potential option that they meet, even if the dog is patently unsuitable – so prepare your child for this eventuality, and ensure that they know that they will probably have to say no to some dogs that aren’t a good fit.
Make sure that your child knows that you will have ultimate power of veto, but involve your child in the search and decision making process.
Before you and your child set out to find the perfect dog, you should agree on the essentials in terms of what type of dog will be a good fit. This may mean that you decide on a certain pedigree breed, but if you want to keep your options open, you should still agree with your child before you start looking around about the basic factors that are essential or to be avoided.
Narrowing down the size and age range of the dog is a good start, and you should also factor in activity levels, health considerations and longevity, and what your child wants to do with your dog too.
Before you begin looking for a dog for your child, you should have a clear idea of how life with the dog is going to look in practice, in terms of the dog’s care and management, and how this will fit in with both your child’s lifestyle and your own.
Don’t forget to factor in other commitments on your child’s time such as sports, hobbies and activities – and also how things will work when they get older and might be undertaking exams or need more time to study.
Choose a dog that will fit in with your lifestyle, and that will still be a good fit when your child and dog get older.
Teaching responsible dog ownership and ensuring that the dog you choose is a good fit for your child means involving them in the decision-making process at every step of the way. Getting a dog as a gift or surprise for your child sends a bad message about giving pets as presents, and whilst the chances are that your child will still love your dog, they might not be the best fit, and your child should have some say in the ultimate choice.
Finally, getting a dog is something that will affect every member of the family, so even if the dog is intended to be your child’s pet, make sure that everyone else that lives with you is on board with the decision too, and understands how the addition of a dog to the home will work in practice.