Pet Parenting: Best dog for a little boy?

Hello Denise,

I would like your recommendation(s) for a pet for our family. Specifically, we would like to get our 6-year-old son a puppy; he is an only child. We want this to be our son’s dog and feel he is ready for the responsibility with some help from mom and dad.

A couple of other things to know prior to making your recommendation(s). We need a light shedder. I have horrible allergies and sinuses. We prefer a primarily inside dog. We currently have a Miniature Schnauzer. Charlie is at least 13 years old. We are partial to Schnauzers but at the same time hesitant. Charlie does not do well with children.

The only other stipulation is that my husband does not want a “frou-frou girlie dog.” We have a fairly large backyard on a 1 acre lot, so plenty of room for exercise. While I understand the individuality of all dogs, I was hoping you could recommend a breed that would likely be a good fit for us?

We are not in a big hurry, but it is something we have been thinking about for a while now. What are your thoughts in regards to timing? Specifically, would you recommend that we hold off on a new puppy until after Charlie passes. We have heard that having Charlie around could aide in the potty training of a puppy, but we don’t want to overly stress Charlie. He did have a companion for much of his life — another Miniature Schnauzer who passed two years ago.

I look forward to hearing back from you and THANK YOU!

Dear Mama:

Thanks for the question. I’m thrilled to know that you are making a well-thought out and informed choice about adding an animal to your household. I wish more people did!

First, on getting another Schnauzer…if that is what you like, I think that would be fine (as long as you can refrain from judging the new dog based on your expectations from previous dogs. They are all different). The breed does not have a reputation for being unfriendly to children, so your current problem probably has more to do with the age of the dog and not having been raised with your son. If you brought in a younger dog, they would likely be fine together. Let me also say that by ‘younger,’ I don’t necessarily mean ‘puppy.’

I think you may want to consider adopting an adult dog from rescue. Aside from being an advocate of rescue, which I admit I am, I think there are definitely some advantages for you, specifically. An exuberant puppy may not be very well tolerated by your older dog. Whereas a dog that’s perhaps between 1-3, might be a little calmer and easier to take.

That dog is also less likely to be biting and nipping at your son, as he should have outgrown at least some of those things. AND big bonus here, adult dogs are usually easier to potty train.

All that being said, the breed that just immediately popped into my head when I first read your email, was BEAGLE! Something about beagles and little boys just seem to go together. The dogs are friendly, outgoing and playful. They can have lots of energy and with a 6 year old boy and an acre of land (are you fenced? Beagles like to trail things), that’s just the perfect set up. They are also very sweet and content to snuggle, and make excellent house dogs.

Beagles can be a bit stubborn on the training end, but they are smart and enjoy learning; they are great at tricks. Positive reinforcement goes a long way with any breed but especially the stubborn ones,  and some of my best trainers are kids. Kids just
naturally seem to get the concept of positive reinforcement.

As for shedding, most dogs do it, and it’s the dander not the hair that causes allergy problems. A good healthy diet based on a premium pet food (and supplemented with fresh fruit, veggies, yogurt, and eggs if you wish) will keep his skin and coat healthy. Healthy skin and coat will reduce not only dander but shedding as well. That being said, Beagles are light shedders anyway.

I encourage you to do some research on the personality of the breed and see what you think. There is a national breed club associated with the AKC and there are also breed rescues for every breed. So it is possible to find/rescue a young adult dog. Rescue is also great because in general, the foster home will be able to tell you A LOT about the dogs personality. You may also want to check with the local shelter and put your name on a list.

If they get a beagle or beagle mix, it would be worth it to at least meet the dog.

One more dog you may wish to consider is a Cavalier. Their hair is a little longer and they will require regular grooming, much like a Schnauzer, but they are also friendly, outgoing little dogs with great personalities and they are  easy to train. Again, do your research.

Once you decide what you are looking for, Petfinder is a great place to start your search as most shelters and rescues will post available dogs on that website.

Good Luck!

Denise Holmes is a pet behavior counselor with over 25 years of experience. She focuses on family pet training and animal-assisted therapy.  She has consulted with Arkansas Children’s Hospital, helped set up a variety of local programs and produced a CD to help expecting parents introduce the family pet to a newborn, Denise not only answers questions for nwaMotherlode, but is also on the air Wednesday mornings on Magic 107.9 to answer callers’ pet-related questions.