When you live in a busy household where there are always people coming and going, it can help to keep things together if there’s one family member who loves everybody unconditionally and is always ready to pay them attention. This is the perfect role for a dog. Natural pack animals, dogs flourish in larger families and can make your happy home even more joyous. But which kind of dog is best suited to this kind of life, and what else do you need to consider before you choose your new companion?
What a dog can do for you
Dogs are ideal companions for children in large families because they’re socially intelligent animals. They can follow what’s going on between lots of different people and they’ll be quick to notice if anybody is feeling left out and needs a little bit of extra affection. They love getting attention from multiple people at once, and joining in with group games. Children spending time with them will learn the value of kindness and loyalty, while looking after a dog can help your kids learn responsibility.
Child-friendly dog breeds
To get along well in the company of children and be a safe companion, a dog needs to be patient, affectionate and energetic. Individual dogs vary a lot and you will have to check the background of any dogs you consider, but choosing the right breed can make it a lot easier to find an animal with the right characteristics. Spaniels may not always be the brightest of dogs but they make great family pets. Labradors are naturally affectionate and have a sense of humour that keeps minor disagreements from turning into trouble. Border terriers are notably resilient and can adapt to almost any situation, and they don’t have the irritability of other terrier breeds. Greyhounds are warm-hearted and intelligent and enjoy relaxing in busy spaces. Don’t overlook mixed-breed dogs – they’re often smarter and healthier than pedigree pooches and your local rehoming centre is bound to have some that adore children.
Caring for your dog
Whatever kind of dog you get, you will need to provide it with proper care, including regular walks, grooming, a healthy diet and trips to the vet. Because these things can sometimes be overlooked in a busy household, with everybody thinking somebody else has done it, it’s best to have specific people in charge of specific tasks. When kids are older, they can manage this using a rota system. Encourage them to learn about the dog’s needs so that any problems can be quickly spotted.
Dogs on their own
Even in a busy home, there will be times when your dog is alone, especially if everybody is at work or school during the day. This can cause fear of abandonment, leading to distress and misbehaviour. You can reduce this risk by making less of a fuss when returning home and leaving, so the dog doesn’t attach as much significance to it. Don’t make a big show of affection when you get in, but be affectionate on an ongoing basis throughout the evening. It can also help to give the dog tasks, such as watching over the younger children, to make it feel that it has a valued role in the home. If none of this works, you can get veterinary help with dog anxiety during the difficult period of adjusting to the new home and routines.
Can your dog keep up?
Families with lots of kids can wear out even the most determined dog, so you will need to make sure you choose a breed and an individual capable of coping with all the attention. Chihuahuas can make great pets for small families but simply can’t cope with being taken on long walks six times a day. You’ll also need to set some house rules so that the dog doesn’t get overwhelmed. Make sure it has its own space to retreat to – even if it’s just a basket under the stairs – where the children are forbidden to pursue it. Be very clear that pulling tails and ears is not allowed and that dogs don’t like to have their feet touched. Ensure that the kids understand that the dog is a member of the family and deserves respect, just as they do.
Getting these things right at the outset will create the space needed for relaxed and happy relationships to develop between the dog and other family members, and then you can look forward to many years of happy life together.