Every time I hear the words “Good with kids” when discussing a dog breed, I shudder. As a dog author, I’ve actually fought with editors over their insistence on stating what dog breeds are good with children. So, I’ve decided to explain the faulty assumptions, and why you should never choose a dog for your family by breed alone.
Dog Breeds and Breed Standards
Many people, when looking for dogs, tend to look at breeds or a mix of breeds when trying to determine the temperament of the dog. This is useful, up to a certain point. Standards call for a certain type of personality as being “ideal” for that particular breed, but the reality often falls short of the ideal. Dogs, like people, have individual personalities that are affected through genetics, congenital issues, training, socialization, medical care, and more. Dogs that are bred for certain types of work may not be as friendly as a dog bred to be a companion. Dogs bred in puppy mills may have poor genetics and poor socialization. Dogs bred by backyard breeders may or may not have good personalities. Even dogs bred by reputable breeders can have personalities that don’t fit the breed standard.
Dog Bite Study
A dog bite study done in 1994 that was published in Pediatics actually showed that dogs that bit people tended to be unneutered (intact) male dogs who had growled or nipped at people in the past, who were not obedience trained, who lived in a family with one or more children younger than 10 years, and who were chained in a yard. While many of the dogs were predominately of either the German Shepherd Dog or Chow Chow breeds, other breeds that bit included Golden Retrievers, Chihuahuas, Cocker Spaniels, Collies, Labrador Retrievers, and Poodles. A full 25% of the dogs that bit were one of the other breeds, making the largest number of biters being scattered across all purebreds.
Dogs Good With Kids?
So, what dogs are good with kids? That question is actually pretty easy. A dog that is either neutered or spayed, well socialized, obedience trained, not chained, and kept as part of the family is less likely to bite than others. The breed may be a contributing factor, but may not. The personality of the dog is crucial.
Also be aware that as a parent, you should always supervise your children and dog when they interact. Young children can inflict pain, causing a dog to bite, regardless of the gentle nature of the dog. Dogs that have never been around children can become over-excited and knock a young one down. And there is always a chance of the dog not recognizing the child as a human, if the dog is too excited by the rapid movements or squeals.
So, when you look for a dog for your family, look beyond the breed and look instead at the dog’s personality, socialization, and training.
NCIPC Bibliography of Articles on Dog Bites