Everyone loves a dog whose good with kids, but what are some specific indicators to look for? There is more to the temperament of a dog than age and breeding.
Here are just a few other things you might want to consider! Keep in mind that these are generalities only and that the training a dog receives in the home from his family from a very early age will be the largest contributing factor to his temperament.
How Well Has the Dog Been Socialized?
Has he been exposed to a wide variety of sights, sounds, and circumstances? An otherwise sweet-tempered dog may be react unpredictably under new pressures and experiences such a move to a new location or going to the vet or obedience school, so it is important to assess how a dog behaves both in and out of his comfort zone.
Is the Dog Territorial About His Food, Toys, Etc.?
A dog who is good with kids as long as they leave his stuff alone is not a dog who can be trusted to be good with kids. While it is important to teach your kids basic safety and respect around dogs, the dog must also learn some tolerance. A dog who is territorial with his food (or anything else) is a dog who is demonstrating his dominance, and if left unchecked this attitude of dominance could spiral out of control.
What’s the Dog’s General Breed, Size, and Type?
While the breed and type of the dog are not guarantees of his temperament, each breed, size, and type will come their own specific tendencies.
Many people find larger dogs more intimidating and gravitate towards smaller dogs for small children, but this is not always wise. A smaller dog is a dog who will be more easily intimidated himself by the noise and activity of small children and will have less tolerance for the kind of rough play and petting that young children often initiate with their dog. A larger dog, on the other hand, is able to more physically tolerant of rougher types of interaction. A dog's breed will not in and of itself dictate his temperament towards children, but each breed comes with their own specific needs that will need to be fulfilled for the dog to be calm and stable. For example, Labrador Retrievers are generally loving dogs considered to be great with children. However, the Lab's extreme energy levels can turn to destructive or even occasionally aggressive behavior if his playful energy is not given an appropriate outlet. Shepherds, collie, and any other herding breed will have a very strong herding instinct that may display itself when the dog begins to nip at small children. This is not an indication of the dog's temperament, but rather an indication that a necessary drive of the dog is not being given an appropriate outlet. The age of the dog is something else to consider. If you have very young and rowdy children, an elderly dog may not have the stamina to tolerate the demands of your household. A puppy may have more energy to keep up with the kids, but remember that a puppy will require training and supervision to learn his place in the household.
All these factors should be taken into consideration before a decision is made, but in the end it is the training he has had in the past and the training you will be able to offer him today that will be the final deciding factor in his temperament. Take your responsibility seriously, and always consult a professional if you feel your dog is becoming aggressive.