How To Choose The Perfect Dog If You Have Kids 

Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

I've been known as a "cat person" for years, but recently my family decided the time was right to add another species to our household: A dog. We ended up getting a Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier puppy, and we couldn't love him more.

He's a ball of energy, he'll be a medium-to-large size (about 18kg to 30kg), he's super friendly (he gives everyone "the Wheaten Greetin'"), and great with kids. He doesn't shed. He might not be the perfect dog for everyone (the high energy, the grooming), but he's just the right dog for us.

With a little research and due diligence, you can find your perfect canine companion too.

You'll have your dog for many years, so make sure to take your time and select the right dog for your family. With so many types of dogs available, consider the following when picking out a dog.

Where to Get Your Dog

First things first: Never buy a dog from a pet store. They are notorious for getting dogs from "puppy mills" where conditions can be deplorable, and the dogs can be seriously unhealthy.

Ask your dog-owning neighbours and people in your community about where they got their dog. Offer to walk the dog or dog-sit, or go on a walk with you friend and his or her dog. Visit your local shelters and talk with them about your wants and needs in a pet.

If you're looking for a specific breed, The RSPCA is a good resource for finding shelters or rescue groups that might have the breed you're looking for. If you want a purebred dog and can't find a shelter or rescue group that meets your needs, make sure the breeder you choose is reputable.

Purebred vs. Mixed Breed

Purebreds can offer consistency in physical and behavioural traits, but some are predisposed to health problems. They can be more expensive than mutts. Mutts can be less prone to breed-specific health issues, but some (although not all) shelter dogs can have potential behavioural issues. If you get a mixed-breed puppy, you might not know how large the dog will be when fully grown.

No matter what you decide, research potential breeds so you'll have an idea what to expect. Bow Wow Insurance has a list of the most popular breeds, with detailed information on the typical characteristics of each breed.

Which Breed is Right for Your Family?

Size

If you live in an apartment, condo, or co-op, you may have restrictions on the size/weight of your dog (and if you live in a tiny apartment, you probably don't want a Great Dane or a Bernese Mountain Dog). If you have an active family, a larger dog might be a good fit.

Size isn't always an indication of temperament - while there are aggressive large dogs and gentle small dogs, some large breeds have a reputation as "gentle giants" while some small dogs can be quite aggressive.

Puppy Vs. Adult

When you get a puppy, you're getting an adorable ball of energy - one that will require lots of walks, house training, and obedience training. Rugs, floors, and furniture will get peed on, pooped on, and nibbled. You will also have to take some time off work for the first week or so to mind it 24/7.

If you get an adult dog, you might have a calmer dog. However, you could also get an adult dog who's fearful or aggressive due to previous experiences; if so, you'll need to be willing to commit to serious training.

Temperament

Do you want a dog who's full of energy, that you can go on jogs and hikes and outdoor adventures with? Or maybe you want a lap dog who will be content to snuggle with you? What about the kids in the family? Make sure you get a dog that will work with your family - don't try to change your family's lifestyle to fit with the dog.

Coat

Some people might prefer dogs with shorter coats that might shed but don't require professional grooming. Others prefer dogs who shed very little, but they might require trips to the groomer. Do you want a dog who's soft and fluffy - or a dog with a coat that can withstand lots of romps in the outdoors?

Cost and Lifestyle

Dogs are an additional expense in your family's budget, no matter what. You should be prepared to spend time and money on walking, training, and veterinary care - plus food, toys, bedding, and grooming supplies.

Are you a family where both parents work long hours? You'll want to research the cost of daily dog walkers in your area. Do you travel a lot? Will you need to bring your dog with you or board your dog while you're away? Consider veterinary and grooming expenses.

Will you be getting pet insurance for your dog? Be prepared to spay or neuter your dog.

Other Considerations

A kid might promise to walk and feed the dog, but the adults in the family will the ones with the primary responsibilities of dog ownership - including walking, exercising, grooming, purchasing food and supplies, and visits to the veterinarian.


Comments

    Larger dogs are often more suited to apartment life as they're typically less energetic than smaller breeds. If they have dependably scheduled (twice daily or more) walks then they'll happily snooze away the rest of the day. On the other hand, all the furious noise I hear from local apartments comes from tiny breeds that run around yapping all day.

      Depends on the breeds, how you treat the dog, and a bunch of other factors. Sometimes it's them guarding their territory (even if it's from geckos or sparrows). But more often barking dogs are bored dogs. They need something to do because they're bored stupid.

      I have small dogs (tenterfield terrier cross) and they are either 100% on and crazy active or asleep. They seem to have no in between. They'll often bark at different times during the day but they don't bark *all day*, largely because they have plenty of toys and I play with them regularly and of course they play together.

      Add council fees to the list of costs. Most councils will require you to register your pet and pay an annual fee. My council charges $43 per dog regardless of size. If you get something that they consider a dangerous breed you could wind up paying more. Also check if you're getting more than one dog since some councils have restrictions on the number you can have. Again, my council allows two regardless of size but you need to apply to be allowed to have three.

        Council registration fees will vary a lot state to state. In NSW now you generally pay a one-off lifetime registration of $50-60 for a desexed dog and > $200 for a non desexed animal.

        For cheaper boarding costs look at out-of-town options which often have city pickup services. I was amazed to find that cat boarding is more expensive than dog boarding (I guess because cats are less vertically challenged for containment than dogs) so my 2kg cat cost more to board than my 55 kg dog. I ended up just getting a house sitter who wound up costing marginally more than boarding one animal and who sent me email photos each day of how they were both getting on.

          That's lucky. $50 for life seems is a much better deal. I'd expect and hope my dogs live at least 15 maybe 18 years. So that's $645 - 774 over the lifetime (not counting inflation). Good pickup on the desexing too. My council charges $148 a year if the dog is "whole".

          Annoyingly a "whole" cat is only $74 a year and a desexed one is $41. Considering my dogs are about the same size as a cat I feel a bit dudded on rego fees.

          I'm really over the whole over-regulation by government (especially small govt). As an example, the council expects you to apply for a permit to keep additional animals. There is a fee to apply for the permit of $165 and even if it's rejected they keep the fee. And the approval is a max of twelve months, so each year you have to cop another fee, and of course they could reject it. This is on top of the actual registration for each animal.

          On top of that, say you have two dogs and your friend/family goes on holiday you can't have their dog on your property for a couple weeks while they're away because it'll exceed the maximum number. You have to apply for the additional animal permit even for that two week period. And even that caps at 30 days, above that the council assumes you own the animal 0_o

          We've also been told that council inspectors can and will randomly inspect properties to make sure you don't have too many pets. Including entering the yard without your permission while you're at work.

    Forgot to add a couple costs, pet-proofing and sitting.

    The article mentions the pets will chew stuff. It should also mention that they're furry, four legged escape artists. You may need to spend time and money making sure your fences are up to scratch. Small dogs will go under the smallest gap and through the smallest hole, far smaller than you'd think possible. Big dogs will often go over fences, especially smart, active breeds like cattledogs. Similarly, you may need to pet proof the inside of the house to stop the getting in behind the fridge or the TV and chewing cords or knocking stuff over.

    The article also touches on travelling with your pet. If you do long trips and especially overseas trips you will likely have to board your pet. Ideally the best way is with friends or family who know the pet (and it knows them). Of course the pet-proofing issue needs to be addressed again since they may not have a fence...

    If you have to board at kennels the costs skyrocket. I recently priced putting my two small dogs in a kennel for a week while I went overseas and it was literally going to double the price of my trip. 0_o

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