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Dogs - the good and the bad!
Advantages of Dogs as Pets for Children
There is no pet which will love you with all its heart and reward you for looking after it quite like a dog. A dog will be your companion for the whole of its life. It will trust you, and protect you.
For an older child it is ideal. Most will happily play fetch for hours, or tug of war, and will accept being petted at almost any time.
People can have mixed views as to the suitability of dogs as a pets for children. Unless the child is a teenager they will be not be able to be fully responsible for its care, or left alone unsupervised with even the most placid family pet. There are all too often stories of where children have been badly hurt, and upon investigation it's usually the child who has unwittingly pushed the dog beyond its tolerance point.
Some breeds are known for being more biddable than other breeds - but make no mistake, any breed has the potential to be dangerous unless properly trained, and treated with respect.
With lolling tongues and big goofy grins there is nothing quite like a dog.
Dogs are especially good companions for an only child, being a willing playmate. It is hard to neglect a dog - it will certainly let you know when it wants feeding, so is an excellent way to teach your child to take responsibility. The fact that a dog needs a lot of exercise will encourage your child to be outdoors walking too. Although young children will not be able to be the main carer with regards to feeding or exercise, walking together and caring for the dog can strengthen the bond between adult and child.
Dogs like fuss and attention, and stroking can be a calming action for both canine and child. Petting an animal can help lower blood pressure and anxiety levels, and dogs have been able to help children who need extra help - children enjoy reading aloud to dogs , and up to the age of 7 years believe they understand the story. For many years dogs have been used as therapy pets.
In today's society we intend to have high levels of cleanliness in our homes, and use sanitizers and soaps at every opportunity. A Finnish study has found children with a dog in the household have better immune systems and need less antibiotics which has been put down to the fact that dogs bring dirt and mud into the house.
Harlequin Great Dane
Disadvantages of Dogs
Most dogs bark. This can be useful to let you know when someone is at the door, or can be intensely annoying to both you and your neighbours.
Most dogs shed hair, though a few breeds don't, or at least not as much as others. If you or anyone in your family has an allergy to pet hair make sure you get a breed which doesn't - a poodle for example. Although pet hair is normally blamed, the allergy is often to the dander (microscopic skin cells that are in the air in a pet home) so an allergy may still be present with a non shedding breed.
Dogs bite - especially as pups when they don't know any better, and puppies have needle sharp teeth until their adult set comes through. These teeth can hurt, but it's a natural process of owning a puppy. If teething pups are particularly nippy children and dog may need to be kept apart.
Dirty Cocker Spaniel Pup
Mixed Breed Dog
No dog can be totally trusted - whatever its age or breed, and young children find it hard to understand that when a dog growls it is a warning sign. If a child hurts a dog it may well defend itself, and sometimes can cause serious damage. This applies to any breed and any age of dog!
As puppies, dogs like to chew, and the larger the breed the more damage they will do! It's been known for dogs to tear up flooring and eat skirting boards! (I had one who destroyed a washing machine!) Toys must be provided to redirect their chewing onto something appropriate.
Dogs get dirty. Very dirty, and track the dirt in the house. After walks on wet days they may well need a bath or hose down before being allowed inside! And wet dogs smell.
Dogs need to have human attention. Although it is possible to leave a dog alone for a few hours it is not recommended, and if your lifestyle means you like to have a lot of evenings out or weekends away then a dog is not the pet for you. A bored dog is likely to do the most damage in the house.
When you go away for a night you will need someone to 'dog sit', or will have to put your dog in kennels. Unlike cats, dogs do not like to put up with their own company for long, and can become destructive if left alone.
Like all warm blooded animals dogs have fleas. You will need to ensure that your pet is regularly treated, especially in the summer months, to stop these pests which not only cause the dog discomfort, but also can bite humans. Simple remedies are on the market or available from your vet which only need a few drops applied to the skin each month.
Dogs have worms, and must be wormed regularly to protect your children and others. Certain worms can cause serious harm to young children, and can cause damage to their eyesight. Even if you don't have children yourself you must worm your pet regularly, and never let it soil in children's playgrounds! Your lovely country walks will be punctuated by your dog's natural toilet breaks. This means you must carry poo bags with you at all times, collect your dog's waste and dispose of it in the dog bins that are normally fairly plentiful on popular footpaths and parks. If there is no bin you must carry it home with you (dog poo can be disposed of in a household dustbin if suitably bagged).