Tips on adopting a dog into a family with children

by Daddy Mojo on April 3, 2012

The other day I was talking to a parent and they told me that they wanted a dog; but thought against it because they have a child.  Before being a parent I did social media and PR for an animal shelter.    I’m a firm believer that a dog has more benefits to a family environment than downfalls.  

Let’s assume that you don’t have a dog and are thinking about getting one for the family.   Before you go to your local humane society ask yourself if you’ve explored these 3 situations.

Plan for the size the dog will be, not what they are

The right dog is great for the familyThe eyes of a dog The right dog is great for the family

Similar to planting a tree in the correct spot in your yard, you want to get the size dog that will be appropriate for your home.  Puppies are great, but they chew, poop, pee and grow.  Of all of those things a puppy does, it’s the growing that you have no control over.

If the puppy has short hair and looks anything like a Labrador retriever they’ll be a 40 pound dog in two years.  Look at the puppy’s paws.  Do their paws look too big for their small body?  If they do then the puppy will be a big ole dog in the very near future.

Adopting a small dog and adopting a puppy are two different things.  If you adopt a puppy and live in an apartment the odds are that puppy will grow up to be a big dog.  Big dogs in an apartment are a bad combination and will most likely result in a dog that has to find another home.

Educate yourself before you start the adoption process about what breed is best for you.

Get the right breed/temperament

Every dog is different and just because they’re a certain breed doesn’t mean that they’ll all have the same temperament.  Here are some rules of thumb that I noticed about children and dogs.

-Small dogs tend to not like children

-Cocker spaniels tend not to like children

-The size and manic energy of a teenage Labrador will knock a child over


“My child wants a dog”, is a comment I heard often.  “If they want a dog, then you decide if you want a dog.  If you decide that your family wants a dog then adopt a dog”, was my reply.

The child will help take care if the dog, they would then say.  The child may not help take care of the dog and they shouldn’t, they’re a child and caring for a dog is an adult responsibility.  You should consider the dog part of the family and be thankful if your child helps take care of the dog.

If you’re adamant on your child helping take care of the adopted dog then give them a dog leash.  Have them care for the leash for a week like a dog is on the other end of it.  They’ll take the dog for a walk, feed them, put them to bed and wake up with them.  After a week evaluate if your child has ‘taken care’ of the imaginary dog.

Thinking about adopting a dog?  Visit and you can search through numerous criteria for dogs (and cats) of all sizes and breeds.  You can also visit your local humane society or animal control office.  Any dog that you adopt should be spayed/neutered and have all their shots.  If you adopt a ‘free’ dog from somebody in a parking lot you’re asking for trouble and possibly huge medical bills.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Beccawilki May 2, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I have great guilt over not getting a pet. My kids want one, but I don’t want to have to take care of another “child” while raising my “human animals.” I just posted a blog about this this morning ( Great advice. I might try the leash experiment with my middle son, but I’m not going to get one until I am ready.


Trey Burley May 2, 2012 at 7:45 pm

 It can be easy.  Granted the work ebbs and flows, but it’s overall easy.  Don’t feel guilty about not having one.  Depending on the age of your kids you could organize a pet collection drive for humane society supplies or have them raise money for the local SPCA.


sarahb May 2, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Great points! I would also add that for parents who adopt dogs, make the extra effort to teach your kiddos some “this is how we treat our doggie” manners and how to interact with a dog.  No ear/tail pulling, sitting on them, squeezing or sneak attacks, etc…


Trey Burley May 2, 2012 at 7:38 pm

 Yup, that one is tough as our toddler now wants to pull the cat’s tail. 


lwaddell May 3, 2012 at 1:04 am

Nice article and thank you for steering people towards adoption, but may I correct a few things?
Determining the future size of a mixed breed pup is a crapshoot sometimes, and is not contingent on the size of their feet, I’ve seen pups with small feet that grew up to be a lot larger than expected and vice versa. Welsh Corgis are a small breed and have feet like Clydesdales, lol, so better to go by puppy body weight first.
No one breed is better than another when it comes to kids, but do keep in mind your child’s age capabilities when it comes to selecting a dog. Toddlers have poor motor skills and tend to whack the dog pretty hard when petting or may try to pick a pup up, so toy breeds that can easily get injured are best left to families with older kids. The best bet? Work with a reputable rescue that keeps the dogs in a home environment for several weeks to truly see the dogs temperament before its available for adoption, and don’t wait to start training! You can even get help from a local dog trainer prior to adopting a dog, as many of them do selection testing as a free or low fee service to help ensure you get the right dog the first time.

Laura Waddell, IACP, APDT, ACACB


Trey Burley May 3, 2012 at 10:30 am

 Those are some wise additions.  I would also add, never-never get a ‘free’ puppy or kitten from someone who has a box of them in a parking lot. 


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