Expert Advises Caution When Choosing Dogs for Families with Young Children

by Lisa

The timeless adage of dogs being “man’s best friend” may face some scrutiny when it comes to their compatibility with households containing young children. A dog expert has shed light on breeds that many families come to regret owning, cautioning that the situation isn’t always straightforward.

Niki French, a canine trainer and proprietor of PupTalk, firmly asserts that there’s “no such thing as a bad dog.” However, she suggests that prospective pet parents should exercise caution when selecting breeds that might exhibit higher levels of neediness or exuberance, especially when cohabiting with infants and toddlers. Contrary to popular assumptions, it’s not the formidable Rottweilers or XL Bullies that raise the most concern for French, but rather the working Border Collies.


French’s reservations stem from the Border Collie’s innate instinct for herding, a trait that extends beyond the pastoral setting into domestic environments. She emphasizes, “There is no such thing as a bad dog. Only a dog in the wrong environment that doesn’t have the skills it needs to feel safe and relaxed. If a dog is scared, or in pain, any dog can bite.”


The genetic predisposition of a dog plays a pivotal role in its behavior within a household. French stresses that a puppy raised by calm and child-friendly parents is more likely to exhibit similar traits in a nurturing environment. However, she cautions that certain breed characteristics, such as the herding instinct of Working Collies, may pose challenges, particularly with excitable toddlers.


Furthermore, French advises against breeds prone to excessive barking, such as Chihuahuas and Yorkshire Terriers, which may disrupt a baby’s sleep routine. Dogs with a high prey drive, like English Foxhounds and Border Terriers, should also be approached with caution due to their inclination to chase small children.


Despite the focus on specific breeds, French underscores the importance of consistent and gentle training to foster harmonious relationships between children and dogs, irrespective of breed. She emphasizes the necessity for supervision, especially in light of recent concerns over dangerous dog incidents in the UK, leading to restrictions on breeds like XL Bullies.

While acknowledging the potential risks associated with larger breeds, French emphasizes that any dog, regardless of size, should be supervised around young children at all times. She underscores the need for education regarding safe interactions between children and dogs, advocating for early instruction in basic canine body language to mitigate potential conflicts.

Jeanette Muldoon, a fellow dog behaviorist at The Family Dog Club, reinforces the notion that a dog’s temperament can be influenced by various factors, including past experiences and environmental conditions. She emphasizes the importance of recognizing subtle cues and addressing underlying issues to prevent escalation in behavior.

In conclusion, while certain breeds may pose unique challenges in households with young children, responsible ownership, proper training, and vigilant supervision are essential to fostering safe and fulfilling relationships between families and their canine companions.


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