It’s easy to assume that because a dog is small it will be good around children. This, however, is not always the case. Just because a little dog is less likely to bowl a child over or play too tough a game of tug-of-war or chase, it doesn’t mean every small dog is suitable for kids. In fact, more of the larger breeds are considered kid-friendly than the small breeds. This is, in part, because larger dogs tend to better trained. Why? Because large dog owners can’t let their pooches get away with misbehavior like small dog owners can. A Great Dane who hasn’t been taught not to greet guests by hugging them is a danger, while a small dog who jumps on a guest is less likely to cause harm. So, small dogs owners sometimes let important training go.
The size of a small dog can actually be detrimental at times when it comes to young children, as the dog is more likely to see the child as a canine playmate and play often includes nipping and scratching. But not all small dogs perceive kids this way and there are many other things to consider when determining whether a breed is good with children.
Temperament: You don’t want a small dog that can be high strung and wary of strangers. This counts out breeds such as the Pomeranian, Brussels Griffon, and Chihuahua. What you want to look for is a breed that is gentle, friendly, affectionate and cheerful. It can help if the dog is also fairly calm, though high energy dogs, such as some terriers, can also make very good playmates. (Note: This is not to say that there are no exceptions to the rule, there are always dogs and mix breeds out there that defy the stereotypes.)
Attachment to You: If you get a small breed that tends to attach itself to one person, namely you, you’ll it is far less likely to get along with anyone else in the house including children. Some breeds that are one-person pooches are the Pomeranian, Schipperke, and Miniature Pinscher.
Trainability/Intelligence: These are actually two different traits – a dog that trains well is not necessarily intelligent but trainability is far more important. Start obedience training when your pup is about twelve weeks old or as soon as you bring an older dog home. Absolutely get the kids involved so the dog understands that they are mini-alphas. Your small dog should obey your child – it’s up to you to make certain your child is using his responsibility well. Some small breeds that are not often easily trainable are the stubborn Pekingese and Yorkie.
Patience: Patience ties into temperament. If a dog is not patient with children, there is risk of a bite. Though you should teach your children how to treat a dog before you get one, there may be those times when other children who are not so learned are around. Patience comes in handy in these situations. The American Pit Bull Terrier used to be called the “baby sitter” because of their devotion to and patience with children. You want a small breed who also has this trait. Though wonderful in other ways, breeds such as the Affenpinscher and Lhasa Apso are usually not patient with little ones.
If you get your small dog as a puppy and socialize him with your children early on, it matters less what breed he is. Usually, when a dog grows up with children, it is at least tolerable with children. But keep in mind that means your children – your dog may not be as suitable around other children. A lot of that depends on how the children behave. Calm, slow behavior is essential as are no poking, no sticking fingers in ears, no tail pulling – you get the idea.
If you are ever with your dog and a child misbehaves, gently correct them and remove your dog if they won’t follow your instructions. You will be doing the child a favor, teaching him how to treat dogs properly, and if his parents object, remove yourself as well. Small dogs and children go hand-in-hand and a good dog will be your child’s companion, protector and comedic relief.