Doggy Dilemma

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hi Ellen,

I really enjoy reading your blog and it sounds like you have been a pet lover for most of your life so I hope you can give me some advice.  I never grew up with any animals but I have always loved Golden Retrievers from afar.  My husband had a border collie as a child and although he likes dogs, he thinks it’s a lot of work.  We have 2 boys, ages 5 and 3 and for some reason my older son has a fear of dogs and we have no idea where it comes from.  He's never been bitten by a dog or even been barked at that I can remember.  My younger son was really comfortable with dogs when he was little but I think he's now copying his older brother because if they even see a dog, you'd think someone was coming after them with an axe or something by the sheer terror in their little faces.

During the summer, we went to a fair and they have a show called the "Superdogs" and afterwards they welcome the audience to go down and meet the dogs and their owners.  To my amazement, both of my boys wanted to go and meet the dogs and actually petted some of them.  They were so proud of themselves so it gave me hope that maybe we can get a Golden Retriever but my son has said that he doesn't like big dogs or puppies that will become big dogs.

I don't really know too much about smaller dogs and I'm guilty of thinking smaller dogs are 'yappy' so I apologize to dog owners everywhere for that assumption.  Can you educate me and advise what breeds of small dogs are good with kids, not yappy and loud?  Are there dogs that don't shed as much?

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.


Dear Ally:
Starting with a smaller breed is probably a better idea.  I for one, am proof that not all small dogs, especially Chihuahuas, are yappy.  It all depends on the individual dog.  Also, barking is a behavior that can be corrected depending on the circumstance. 

In regards to which breed would be best, I did some research on the internet and judging by your other needs, here is what I came up with.

The Brittany Spaniel is a medium size dog of thinner build.  The breed is easy to train and very sensitive, which is good. 

I also found the Bichon Frise to be suitable for children.  These dogs don’t shed because they have hair instead of fur.  They are a small breed and when trained like any other dog, aren’t “yappy”.

I also found the Cocker Spaniel and Beagle on the list.  You should do some more research on all of those breeds.  They are also a decent size. 

No matter what breed you may decide on, it is a very good idea to sign your dog up for obedience school whenever you can.  Also, your entire family should attend so you can learn everything together.  I also think that may help your son get more comfortable with dogs.  Petsmart and Petco also offer reasonably priced training.  My one Chihuahua Grace took classes at Petsmart and graduated last year!

If you decide to get your dog through a breeder, you can ask the breeder if she can help match you up with the perfect individual dog for your family’s needs. 

I also wanted to say, I noticed the Golden Retriever is the ideal dog for children.  I know of many cases of people I know that had a major fear of dogs that went away eventually.  Most of those people have big dogs now.  Maybe if you do start with a puppy, and your son builds a relationship, he will not fear it when it gets older.  You could also ask a breeder of Golden Retrievers what she advises.  I think Goldens are amazing dogs so if you really are interested in that breed (and from our emails back and forth it seems you are) you should go for it. 

Thank you for your question and please let me know how everything goes!


  1. Maybe you can look into a GoldenDoodle? It's a mix of a Golden Retriever and a Poodle. Because it's mixed with Poodle it doesn't shed, and it gets the temperament of a Golden Retriever.

    Personally I think dogs are a lot of work so I can't help convince you to get one. ;)

  2. Good Advice, Schmecky! Golden Doodles are pretty nice dogs despite their very silly name. They can get as large as a Golden. I have met a few at the dog park and they all seem to be very friendly and well behaved. There is also the Labradoodle, which is a cross between a poodle and a lab.

    Ellen's advice to do your internet research on any dog you choose is also good advice.I grew up with a Brittany Spaniel and she was a great dog, and lived to be 18.Whatever dog you get, make sure you get some training, as the larger breeds can be a handful without it.

    You might want to take your boys to a fenced in dog park a few times, so they can see how dogs behave with each other. Sometimes kids find their play-fighting a little scary. I suggest a fenced park so your boys can stand outside the fence if they feel safer.

    My Border Collie-Belgian Shepherd cross, Annie, and I wish you the best in your decision!

  3. SO true! Also, mixed breeds tend to have less genetic health problems since they aren't purebred.

  4. I would definitely steer away from a border collie though. Especially if there's not alot of room for him/her to run. Plus, they are herding dogs and they will and do try to herd kids too. My husband's dog does this, he'll nip at the little kids to try to get them where he wants them to be. He even tries to herd ME when I move to far away from hubby! Crazy dog!

    I think mutts are the best dogs and choosing from a shelter is a great thing to do!

  5. Absolutely, steer away from Border Collies! They are never satisfied, no matter how much exercise they get, they still want more.
    My Annie has the Belgian Shepherd blood to temper that exercise requirement; she is high energy, but restful at home.
    I agree that a mutt from a shelter can be the best, but make sure you have a good history, as sometimes they have been abused to the point where they are not very trainable.

  6. Thank you all so much for the great advise! I will do some more research. I feel torn emotionally because both of us really want another child but when we look at our situation objectively and practically, it doesn't seem to work financially. The boys are at the point where it is getting easier and it seems with working FT, kids swimming lessons, kindergym, hubby taking a night class, we don't even have the time to spend with them that we want and would be unfair have another child if we can't spend time with the kids we have now.

    I was thinking maybe having a dog would help with that feeling I have.

    Anyways, you have some great bloggers on here and I really appreciate all your suggestions.

  7. You have some great suggestions here from Ellen and all the commenters above. A pet gives children great opportunities to learn responsibility, learn empathy, and so many other important life skills. I would like to add that this is the perfect time to get the kids a dog, because this way they can grow up with the dog and it will live until around the time they leave home.

  8. I agree with all of the above posters. I would also avoid a beagle. They are very cute and hard to resist as puppies, but, they like to escape and chase smells.

    A long time ago I read a book called How to choose the dog you can be happy with and can be happy with you. It gave wonderful insights. One of which was to pick a puppy that is submissive. You want to take the puppy and with one hand, roll it on it's back and see how it reacts. If it fights you doing this or immediately rolls back over, try another. Seriously, you want to find a puppy that will just stay there and wait for you to let him go.

    Dog school is the best money you will spend. Try to find one that will let your sons participant in the puppy classes, too. That way everybody learns the same words and hand signals to use.

    Good luck Ally.

  9. HI all,

    I wanted to give you an update cause sometimes you wonder what happens after the fact. We decided to go with a young adult dog (Golden Retreiver) so I am looking for one now.

    My 2 boys are nervous around dogs except for my brother's dog, Jake which is a Lab Retriever. My older son says that he doesn't want a puppy but wouldn't mind a "Jake dog" and same for my younger son. I've told them that the dog we get would be like Jake but just a bit furrier. They seem to be ok with that.

    Wish me luck and thanks again for all the great advise!


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