A child's age and dog breeds meant for him or her

By Kodichukwu Okonkwo, DVM | May 22nd, 2023

Many of my clients bought their dogs because their kids requested them. Many parents make the mistake of buying dogs for themselves instead of their kids without knowing it. One of our clients that made this mistake bought a Boerboel puppy for his 5-year-old son who has been begging him for a puppy. When the dog was between 6 weeks to 4 months, the boy played with the puppy every day but as the dog grew further the parents started to notice numerous injuries on the boy's body inflicted by the dog during play. The dog has started growing too big to be playing with the boy. The dog would push the boy down when playfully jumping toward the boy. Soon the parents got tired of the numerous issues and stopped the dog from playing with the boy. The dog never intended to injure his friend but he didn't realize he was too big for his friend. The parents ended up keeping the dog for themselves no longer for their son.

Buying a dog for your kids has to follow some rules which will have to consider the kid's age and temperament. I will not advise any parent to buy a puppy for a child below the age of 3 years. From experience, I noticed some kids below this age may not be able to observe hygiene while playing with dogs or puppies alone. Some kids would even play with the poop of the puppy and may sometimes get it into their mouths. Some of them might even use heavy objects to hit the puppy to death or serious injuries. Sometimes during play, they can be mildly beaten by these puppies who love to play with their teeth.

Children of ages between 5 – 10 years of age will really enjoy the company of a puppy. My advice is that you get a toy dog – a dog that will not grow more than 5-10kg as an adult - not a dog that will grow bigger than that. The reason is that the dog will remain small and still be a dog. Kids start to learn to be responsible for something both male and female. They start to notice when their dog is hungry, active, tired, and sick. The kids learn to clean up their puppy's mess and also bathe their puppy or dog. It's said that kids that grew up this way usually have empathy for living things. I am an example.

Children between the ages of 10 - 15 years will enjoy the company of dogs like German shepherds, Golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and other dogs with a weight of 10 – 30kg. At this stage, the child has acquired the strength and energy to handle dogs this size and may be able to train the dogs to understand their spoken language. At this point, the child might be able to walk the dog with a leash around the neighborhood without being overpowered by the dog.

From 15 – 20 years and above the child can be introduced to bigger and stronger dogs such as the Rottweiler, Boerboel, Caucasian Mountain dogs, Pit bulls, and other very strong dogs. At this stage, the child will be able to control these dogs because they have acquired the necessary ability to manage these types of dogs.

In conclusion, I will say that this advice is not cast in stone. You can tweak them a little knowing the experience of your kids with dogs. I have seen dogs being thrown out of a very loving family because of these mistakes that I am trying to correct with this article. Buying a puppy for your kids can be a very nice way of giving them a friend, company, and a sound mind.


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    Kodichukwu Okonkwo, DVM

    Founder of Fairvet Animal Clinic Ltd since 2011, studied at the University of Nigeria Nsukka. He is well experienced in small animal, large animal & poultry medicine, and also skilled at zoo medicine. He loves animals and builds both professional and personal relationship with pet owners in order to sustain a good interaction with pet and animal owners, coupled with His great skills in programming; he brought about www.fairvet.com which he personally built from scratch.

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