“Please Oh Please Can We Have a Dog?!”

When kids go on a campaign to get a dog, they’re in it to win it. 

They’re not going to let up until they’re zooming around the back yard or curled up on a club chair with a furry four-legged fido. So you may come to realize that it’s time to add a canine to the family portrait. Thankfully, there are many options for families of all ages and activity levels. But first there are a few questions parents should ask before they say "yes," including researching the best breed for your particular kids and getting a clear picture of what the commitment requires. When choosing your family dog, consider the following:

How old are your children?

When looking for a suitable breed for your family, don’t assume a smaller breed will be less work. Every breed requires its own manner of care, and has a unique temperament and exercise needs. And, regardless of breed, all puppies are fragile and no child should be left unsupervised with a dog of any age.

Which family member will serve as the main caretaker?

Even if you’re getting the dog for the kids, as the adult you are ultimately responsible for any pets you choose to bring into your house. Sure, the kids promised they’d feed and walk the dog. But what if they forget? It’s you who will wind up with the extra chores. It’s also important to consider the preferences and needs of all family members in your decision. Is grandma afraid of dogs? Is your daughter a soccer star while your son is a bookworm?

How active is your family and how much daily exercise are you willing and able to give your dog? Can your family provide twice-daily extended walks and playtime or are you more likely to let your dog out in the backyard for exercise and bathroom breaks?

The amount of time you can spend to exercise should help determine the type of dog you get.

What are your family’s favorite activities? 

If your family is the outdoors type, a sporting or herding breed such as a Labrador Retriever or a Australian Shepherd that thrives on outdoor work may be a good match. For indoor types, a smaller, smooth-coated breed like a Boston Terrier or a Pug that enjoys the shelter of your home and constant companionship might be best.

Where do you live? Suburb, city, a rural area?

Try to match the breed’s needs with your living space. Note: Small breeds don’t always do better in small spaces and some large dogs are completely happy in apartments -- do your research to find out which breed is best for your space.

Does you have the financial resources to care for a dog?

While the purchase price is a one-time expense, there are annual expenses such as food, vets bills, and toys, which can add up. If the dog has an unexpected illness or injury, vet bills can run into the thousands of dollars.

Should my family get a puppy or an adult?

This question should be examined carefully. If you want a young puppy, remember that you're committing to a ten year (or longer) relationship. Puppies also require significant supervision and training. One option is to acquire a purebred rescue dog, which allows you the predictability of a specific breed, but means you don’t have to spend time and energy raising and training a puppy. No matter the dog's age, you will need to train your kids right alongside your dog, so they understand the rules about what is OK, and what is not OK, when interacting with your pet.

Once you’ve reached a decision on a breed, make sure you find a responsible breeder who will provide you with a healthy, well-bred puppy.