Tips on Picking the Perfect Kid-friendly Dog

Welcome to the June 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Animals

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about kids and pets.


As you know, we are happy owners of two wonderful dogs. Curie and Pascal are important parts of our family and we love them dearly. Before getting Curie though, we had Kerrigan.

Kerrigan was also loved and cherished, but sadly suffered from brain abnormalities that caused her to be aggressive (likely due to being a puppy mill dog). After many years of attempting to train her out of her aggressive tendencies, we made the hard decision to put her down about 4 years ago. It still upsets me to this day, but I am certain we made the right decision. When she threatened the safety of Peanut and the vet told us there was no way to really keep our child(ren) safe, it was time.

When we decided to get another dog (I’m a big animal lover and very quickly missed the presence of a dog in our home), I did A LOT of research to be certain we could avoid being in the same scenario again. So today I’m going to share with you My Tips on How to Pick the Perfect Kid-friendly Dog.

1. Consider getting a puppy. Yes, I know this is not politically correct and that there are PLENTY of adult dogs who are great with children. From my experience though, there’s just no way to make up for a dog getting manhandled while growing up. A dog who is mauled (with love) by a toddler every day as it grows will simply be more tolerant of it as an adult. If you’d like an older dog, it definitely can be done. Just make sure to pay special attention to the rest of the steps.

2. Research breeds. Of course every dog has its own personality, but breed does matter when it comes to kid-friendliness. Some breeds are very well known for their ability to tolerate small kids, while others are known for their inability. Some dogs you may not want around toddlers because they’re fragile (Pomeranian). Some dogs you may not want around toddlers because the toddler is fragile (Great Dane). So keep breed in mind and definitely research the breed of any dog you’re considering, but don’t completely discount a dog because of its breed. If you’re really hitting it off with a pooch, move onto step three (while keeping breed traits in mind).

3. Perform Puppy Tests. This list of tests is by far the best I’ve found for determining the personality of your dog. And they don’t have to be a puppy either! You can test out any age of dog, thought possibly with the help of another person if they’re a large breed. This will not only show any aggression, but other traits that are useful to know. Maybe your dog has had a bad owner in the past and you find that out from the hand-shy test. Maybe your dog is very domineering (though not aggressive) and you find this out by the dominant stare test. These are all useful things to know in step 4.

4. Train your pooch! Once you have that dog home, your work is far from done. Get your new (or new to you) dog into a training class ASAP! Ask around (your vet is a good place to ask) for a good trainer in your area. And I’m not talking about the little phooey training classes offered by your local big box pet store. A REAL training class taught by someone who has been doing this 20+ years for a living. Pay real attention in your class, ask questions, work on everything. Having a dog that will listen to your every command (or at least close) is even more important when small children are around. When your two year old goes chasing after your dog who is running off, you want that dog to come back to you when you call! When you have play dates and little friends are afraid of the dogs (or at least shy at first), you want to be able to keep your dogs off that kid. It’s even more difficult to keep up with training when you have small children, but trust me, it’s worth it.

5. Train your kids! The training doesn’t just happen with the dog! Children, whether they own pets or not, need to understand how to properly treat an animal. We have a few simple rules in our family about pets.

  1. Never pet a dog without the owner’s permission.
  2. Do not pull tails.
  3. Never bother an animal while its eating.
  4. Stay back from the dogs while they’re rough housing.
  5. Treat all living things with respect.

These are the scenarios where I feel like it’s completely the child’s (or really, the parents’) fault if they get hurt. It’s important to keep the dog (and other animals for that matter) safe as well as the child. Any animal can get aggressive in the right scenario.

6. Lastly, trust your gut. When you get that feeling while petting a perspective dog, walk away. When you can tell your dog is reaching his/her limit, intervene. If you just don’t feel 100% right about a situation, don’t allow it to continue. This is a good rule of thumb for general life, but especially important with animals around children. Your gut often tells you when something is about to go horribly wrong, so don’t ignore it.

I hope this helps some of you find the dog of your dreams. It is completely possible for you to own the perfect dog for your family, regardless of the age of your children. And it’s great for their immunity to boot!


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • What Animal Rescue is Teaching My Children
  • Tips on Picking the Perfect Kid-friendly Dog — Lactating Girl at The Adventures of Lactating Girl shares some tips she’s learned on how to find the perfect child-friendly dog for your family.
  • All New Animals Are “Woof” — Baby Boy is still learning animals. Life Breath Present doesn’t yet have any at home, but he still believes that all animals are “woof.” Here’s the proof.
  • Dude, where’s my Horse? — Adora loves horses, but Erin at And Now, for Something Completely Different really doesn’t. However, Adora’s longing wins out; learn about their interactions with horses here.
  • Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Family Pet — When is a family ready for a pet? Donna at Eco-Mothering discusses her worries as well as the benefits of adopting a dog, including how it will affect her seven-year-old daughter.
  • Parenting Challenge–Learning from Animals–running the emotional gammut — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about the emotional learning her family has experienced through sharing their lives with animals.
  • Puppy Love for our Family — In case you didn’t catch it from the blog title, Pug in the Kitchen, the family pet is an integral part of Laura’s family and home life!
  • Vegetarianism and Animal Rights: Explaining to Children — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook is mostly vegetarian…not 100%, and not because of animal rights…yet she has found that the idea of not hurting animals is the aspect of vegetarianism most easily understood by a young child. She explains what her son has learned about not eating meat and how it has affected his social life.
  • Pets & kids: The realities — Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the benefits and drawbacks of pet ownership when young kids are involved.
  • HOW PETS CONNECT WITH EMOTIONS: KIDS & PETS AFTER 9-11 — Parenting Expert Laurie Hollman at Parental Intelligence discusses the importance of pets in lowering stress after traumatic situations, why children choose certain pets, the loss of a pet, and the role of parents in teaching care-giving to animals in a warm, gentle way.
  • It’s not our house without a dog! — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work describes why giving a loving and disciplined home to at least one shelter dog at a time enriches the life of her family, and has become a vivid memory in the minds of her children.
  • Canine Haikus

    Kids, dog, haikus, at

    Dionna (Code Name: Mama).

    Pet-centric poems.

  • Beanie’s BunniesOur Mindful Life‘s Sofi Bean has gotten her first pets!
  • Montessori Care of Pets — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her experiences with kids and pets and shares Montessori resources for pet care.
  • How to Nurture Your Child’s Awareness of Spirit Guides — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama hosts a post from her regular contributor Lauren of Lauren looks at the concept of animals as spirit guides and how deeply children are connected to this realm. She also encourages us to open ourselves up as parents to the reality that children are naturally more connected to the animal world, giving us ideas on how to nurture their relationships with their Spirit Guides.
  • No Puppy! — Meg at the Boho Mama shares her tips for dealing with toddlers and the (very real) fear of animals.
  • Year of the Pets — Jorje of Momma Jorje wasn’t sure she ever wanted pets again, but things have changed a lot this year!
  • 3 Reasons Why Keeping Backyard Chickens is Good for my Toddler — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, started keeping backyard chickens for the benefit of their eggs, but what she wasn’t prepared for was what they would teach her two year old daughter too.

12 thoughts on “Tips on Picking the Perfect Kid-friendly Dog

  1. We *just* got a new (to us) puppy. He is about 4 months old, and I just read your link on the worst breeds with my breath held – thankfully, he didn’t make the list. My current problem is that since he’s a rescue dog, he’s not yet current on shots, so we’re limited on where we can take him (no training classes without rabies shots!) I can already see that he has not been socialized enough – he’s scared of everything. We’re going to have our work cut out for us . . . but the kids love him 🙂

    • I’m sure that once you’re caught up on his shots and can take him to training classes that he’ll socialize quickly. Or he could just be one of those dogs that doesn’t love other dogs, who knows. Either way, it sounds like he’s getting plenty of people socialization. 🙂

  2. Good tips for picking out a dog. Sometimes though, the dog picks you and your family rather than the other way around and that’s ok too.

  3. This is just what I needed to read right now as we begin our search for our first family dog. Thanks for the Puppy Tests – I never would have known about that. Also thanks to your links, I discovered a breed I had not known before – the Havanese, which sounds like a good match for us. Thanks!

    • Haha actually my husband came up with the name Pascal! I was all ready to name him Einstein (as you can see, we go with scientist names), but my husband suggested that (partially because he knew my daughter would love it) and it stuck. 😛

  4. It’s so hard making decisions about pets and kids. Sounds like your kids are learning how to love and be loved by their pets.
    Laurie at Parental Intelligence

  5. Pet tests – whoa! I like that. Seeing as how growing up there wasn’t any research into getting our different dogs, I never knew such a thing existed. What a great way to figure out a dog’s personality and how it might fit in with my family! Thanks 🙂

  6. These are great tips! Ultimately, I believe there’s a perfect dog for every family and a perfect family for every dog. We have a Pomeranian that’s great with our kids, but we also recognize that isn’t necessarily the rule. What an awesome dog-mom to have done so much research – kudos to you!

    • Yeah I definitely believe that the breed doesn’t make the dog! Sorry if it sounded like I meant that pomeranians can’t be good dogs for kids. I was more meaning that you have to keep in mind those kinds of things (e.g. size) when you’re picking out a dog to make sure it’s the right fit for your family.

  7. This is so helpful! We’d like to adopt a dog whenever we might have a yard someday, and I know NOTHING about what to look for in breeds and training. I just know I definitely want to learn a ton & do really intentional training! The tests about aggression were really eye-opening and such a good idea for testing a dog right off the bat before adopting. I’ve heard too many horror stories of kids hurt by dogs not to take that seriously. Thanks for sharing!

    • Something I love about those tests is that you can do them on any age of dog. I really wish we would have known about the tests before getting our first dog. At the same time though, I’m happy that we got her and were able to provide her with love (and work as hard as possible on fixing her problems) before she had to be put down.

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