Recently adopted a rescue dog? Or perhaps you are thinking about welcoming a rescue dog into your home but are concerned about how your toddler and the animal may get along?
In this article, we will dive into the benefits of children growing up with dogs whilst also considering the care you should take when picking a dog that will share you and your toddler’s home.
The are numerous benefits of children growing up alongside dogs, several studies published show that children have a lower risk of developing asthma and a boosted immune system when there is a dog in the home.
However, adopting a rescue dog when you have young toddlers does carry risks you need to consider:
You can not be sure of the adoptive dog’s history. Whilst shelter staff will do their best to get an accurate picture, a dog could potentially have an unknown bite history, resource guarding, carry a genetic illness triggering them to snap when in pain or simply be poorly socialised.
That being said, you do need to be careful with any dogs around small children and 100% supervision is a must. For example, my own labrador we bought home at 8 weeks, we know his genetics, we have socialised him well and he has met numerous babies and toddlers. I am extremely confident he would be fine with the toddler, however, I still would not allow him to be alone with one or put either in an unsafe situation (think Instagram posts with toddlers lying on their dogs)! But with a rescue dog, you do not often know their past so an extra level of precaution must be taken.
Puppy vs adult dog
Generally speaking, if you adopt a young 8-week-old puppy, you will have time to socialise with your young dog, they are unlikely to have had too many bad experiences and can be ‘raised’ with your child.
But a puppy will have lots of energy and will have high needs, so this may not be suitable for you and your toddler if you are particularly time-poor. If you adopt an older dog they tend to be calmer and could just need some training but could have an in-depth history of neglect.
The breed of your rescue dog
Any dog can bite. The difference between a small fluffy dog biting and a larger one is the damage they may cause.
Aggression/reactivity in dogs is not breed-specific (e.g, not all Rotties are aggressive and all Dachshunds are calm). A dog’s behaviour (pre-training) depends on the genetics of the dog. Certain breeds will require more maintenance than other breeds(long hair/short hair), working line German Shepards vs greyhounds, etc. When reading online profiles for rescue dogs, pay close attention to those detailed as not suitable for children.
The dog’s temperament (personality) can be difficult to determine with rescue dogs. In an animal shelter, dogs will often be stressed in that environment and will act completely differently from how they might be in your own home! Animal shelter/rescue staff and volunteers do a great job but many are overworked and dealing with high demand meaning they don’t have the time/experience to sufficiently gauge the dog’s temperament and to make sure they are a suitable match for you and your toddler.
A trial for you, the dog and your toddler
Many shelters will offer the option of a trial stay which can be a good solution to seeing how a dog behaves outside the kennel. I would recommend doing this when your toddler is staying with a friend or family member for the night and introducing them in a calm, short period to begin with.
Adding a rescue dog to your family home can be a rewarding experience for both you and your toddler. The opportunity to give a dog a home and gain a valued family member in the process is something I have seen many families benefit from.
However, there are risks. Take your time with your decision and consider all your options.
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