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Advice on breed please(34 Posts)
We are researching getting a puppy/dog but I have no experience with dogs. One of the motivations is that we have a dd with suspected asd and anxiety and we think a relationship with a dog will be therapeutic. We have 4 DC, youngest is a toddler. Which breeds are happy with a noisy, busy family with young children?
We will be arranging for a dog walker to look after the dog for a few hours every day, and we will be home in the afternoon, but need a breed that is ok to be left alone for a few hours.
We did want a rescue dog, but don’t think this will be viable with young children.
Any advice is really, truly welcomed!
Breeds which I have seen as therapy dogs and which often make good family dogs too include golden retrievers, labradors, spaniels, tibetan terriers, shih tzus, staffies, poodles... quite a variety there in terms of size, energy levels and coat types, you don't mention if you want a small/medium/large dog?
One thing to bear in mind is that a puppy of any breed is going to be a lot of work for at least the first year of its life, many people compare it unfavourably to having a (human) baby, they are noisy, demanding destructive little critters, need constant toileting, cry a lot night etc. Even with say guide dogs who have an extensive breeding programme to select calm, intelligent dogs, loads of their puppies never actually make the grade for being too nervy or too difficult to train, so you can't guarantee a puppy will be suitable just from it's breed, they all have different personalities....
It's a lovely thing you are wanting to do for your DD but it's possible that she won't have the lovely calming relationship with the dog you are envisioning for quite some time, and without really careful management (I'm talking watching them together every single second, intensive training for both dog and all the DC on how to interact safely and separate 'dog' and 'DC' zones in the house so they can get away from one another) she and the other children could end up being more scared of the dog than enjoying it - puppies are very jumpy and bitey and their teeth really hurt! You train them out of it of course but it takes a while and needs constant reinforcement. Plus puppies actually can't be walked for hours and hours when they are young due to vaccinations/developing joints, but still have LOADS of energy so need to be kept occupied with brain games and training which all takes time.
Overall no-one could blame you if you decided a smaller/easier pet would be better for your family now and leave getting a dog for when the youngest is a bit older!
If you're planing to get a puppy then relying on a dog walker may not be a good idea at first. Puppies should only be walked short distances for the first year of their life.
When you say the puppy needs to be left for a few hours and then spend a few hours with a walker - do you mean you're going to be out of the house most of the day? Because that's not really the ideal environment for a young puppy.
Sorry to sound so negative! But I am dog walker and offer puppy visits and the amount of people who think a dog walker is the solution to leaving their dog in its own all day long is staggering. Yes, having someone to pop in at lunchtime is great but for a very young dog that won't be enough.
I also wouldn't take a puppy out on a long walk - my puppy visits are 30 minutes and include toileting, a short 15-20 minute walk and topping up water/food as necessary. I wouldn't be there for several hours to sit with your dog.
I have a similar set up to you and similar reasons for wanting to add a dog to our family. I have discovered a good range of various age rescue dogs including young ones available to adopt from abroad. There are many Labrador types amongst others where you can see a video of them interacting too as a picture could make even the most aloof dog look cute
For our set up this is perhaps the best way to go. I'd love to get a breed specific puppy, however I am aware their temperament can remain unpredictable and I could end up with a dog who thinks our small pets are fair game or who is hostile to strangers/other dogs. I am keen to ensure I get a dog who we can make one of the family by being able to have it around when small pets are out and the kids have friends over.
The online rescues tend to be able to post up videos showing the dogs reaction or lack of to cats for example to show you which is helpful
Firstly keep in mind that therapy dogs are selected for their temperament amongst many other dogs that don’t make the grade and then they are trained to a high standard for that specific dog. So be careful not to be too optimistic about the therapeutic benefits of a dog for your DD specifically.
Having said that, many children do develop a very beneficial bond with dogs. How much contact has your DD had with dogs so far? What is her reaction? Is she OK with loud dogs, jumpy dogs, barky dogs? The puppy will do all those things as well as bite which can be very overwhelming for many children. There are some dog mad DCs who just live dogs from a very young age. Having said that the majority of DCs need yo be around 6yo before they can have any sort of meaningful relationship with dogs. Some dog training clubs have classes for people who want to get to know dogs so that might be an option for your Dd to really test how she reacts to dogs.
Getting a dog walker is a good plan for later one. To start off with someone will need to be around almost all the time for the first few weeks, possibly months depending on temperament, of the dog’s life. Also keep in ind that given how young your DCs are you will effectively need two adults, one to deal with the DCs and one to deal with the puppy. It is not possible to train during walks, or even walk a puppy/young dog while also supervising a toddler and three other children.
And, unfortunately, I’d wait until after the pandemic has died down before getting a puppy. At the moment there are no training classes, dog walkers may not be able to come into your home, etc.
There aren't really breeds that can be left alone. Most dogs can only be left alone for about 3 hours and that's once they're older and properly trained. If you are out of the house for longer than that then its a bad idea. Even something like a trip to the cinema or a meal out has to be thought about carefully.
I second what the pp said about lockdown being a bad time to get a puppy. Socialisation is a key element of puppy training. If you can't train your puppy you are setting yourself up for further problems.
I have a 4 year old son with ASC, SPD and anxiety. I bought a golden retriever as a family pet when she was 8 weeks old. She was hard work as a puppy but absolutely worth it. She is brilliant with my little boy and does calm him when he is struggling. They are best friends, she copes with the rocking and the noise and has really made a difference to us. She did play up when we used to leave her for a couple of hours but that stopped when she was about 8 months old.
She is a big part of our little family.
Have you spoken to any of the therapy dog charities? Canine Partners come to mind but there are others.
Even if you do not qualify for one of their dogs, they may offer advice.
Or Guide dogs who may be able to match you with a retiring guide dog, who will really only be middle aged , but will be very well trained.
we have a Golden retriever too.
He was very hard work as a puppy, bitey and hyper, the dc found him hard to deal with and they were 7 and 11 at the time.
Hes now 4 and a lovely part of our family, hes messy and hairy and likes mud, hes also a huge commitment and our whole lifestyle has had to change but hes (mostly) worth it.
I find that Goldies are a really empathetic breed, if anyone is upset he just knows and will sit there with them just leaning or give a paw. I suppose its why they are so often used as therapy dogs. We had them when I was a child and if things were difficult they were a real comfort.
It has taken a lot of work and effort to get to this point but we do love him. Also, while there are certain breed traits they are all individuals and you cant expect a dog to have a certain personality based on breed so some might not be as calm or like cuddles (we had a Goldie that didn't once)
As someone else said look at failed Guide Dogs as well
Our school has a part time therapy dog that’s a great dane. Apparently, the kids adore him.
Thank you all, all very useful and appreciated advice.
DD is 12, used to dogs, has experience with bitey puppies at friends’ houses. She has been passionate about dogs for her entire childhood. Her anxiety is not such that she’s afraid of dogs in any way, it’s more the unpredictable nature of life and social expectations that make her suffer.
@Dreamersandwishers thanks: I’ll contact both.
Yes, we will be out of the house for work. Children will be out 8-3:30, so my friend (dog walker) would take the dog on walks for most of that, with her dog and the visiting ones.
I had thought getting a puppy now might be good, as I’m working from home til September, so one of us could be here all the time. We would really prefer an adult rescue, but can’t risk a traumatised dog with children (or so I’ve been reliably informed).
@maxelly a medium dog, I think. DD prefers medium-large dogs.
I don’t really want the extra work and responsibility, but I do really believe a dog would be good for our family, and my daughter desperately need support. I think a dog would really work for her, and of course, we would love and care for a dog. It’s a tough one.
* I don’t really want the extra work and responsibility,*
Then in the nicest way possible, please don't get a dog.
They are a huge huge commitment. You say your friend is a dog walker and will take your dog out but as a puppy that will be impossible as they just can't go out and walk for hours and hours like that or they'll end up damaging their joints.
What about if you want to go on days out or holidays, or just want to pop out in the evening after work - say if there's a school play or parents evening? One of you will have to stay home as you can't leave a dog all day and well into the evening too - it's not fair and the poor thing will be bored to tears.
If you don't want the responsibility of a dog then don't get a dog. They require a huge amount of commitment and sacrifice - and remember your DD is 12. She's coming up to her teen years and will then be off to university or moving out, leaving you with another 8 odd years of commitment to the dog.
I don't mean to sound negative but it reads to me like you love the idea of a dog but don't really want to put the work in place to have one. Young dogs are hard hard work and there's a reason many end up in rescues before they reach two.
If there's nobody in the house from 8-4 then you can't realistically have a dog. Its as simple as that. Puppies can't walk for very long and even older very active dogs wouldn't want to be walked all day like that.
Go onto borrowmydoggie and sign up to help others walk their dogs. Lots of older people would appreciate this and your children can have the fun of being out with a dog without creating a poor environment for one.
Can you or your partner (ideally both) arrange to work from home a couple of days a week post September? Unless your jobs can’t be done from home I think employers would have trouble saying no to such requests now after people have been doing it for months from necessity. That would put a very different slant on things. Or could you afford puppy daycare?
Most dogs cannot be left alone for that long and you have to think of the total hours the dog would be left alone if you wanted to do family things in the evening, e.g. pizza and restaurant.
At least one adult in the household should be enthusiastically committed to taking care of the dog for the next 15 years, otherwise don’t do it.
I don't mean to sound negative but it reads to me like you love the idea of a dog but don't really want to put the work in place to have one
This isn’t the case for us. We have been carefully thinking about it for years and I’m aware of the work involved. It’s not that I’m not willing to put the work in, it’s just that I’m being realistic that it won’t all be fun and games; it’s walking in the rain, getting up early to walk, planning a weekend away for ages. I have 4 children- im used to hard work!
Unfortunately we can’t work from home. My husband has several days off per week, but I’m aware that we need to plan for the future and not just for now, and his job will change.
Thanks again for the ideas, I’ll definitely look into them.
That's good - it is hard! But if you work out of the home full-time then you do need to be realistic about the kind of care your dog will need. Luckily there's lots of help out there for working pawrents!
I'm a dog walker and I offer the following services - I'm sure you can research and find someone similar in your area
- puppy visits. Dropping in and letting puppies out to the toilet, topping up food/water and taking them for a short walk.
- standard walks - I get paid per hour and will happily take dogs for longer than one hour if they're old enough.
- half-day adventures - these wouldn't be suitable for a puppy but for older dogs they're great. I take a group of dogs out for 3-4 hours. They get a picked up, a 2-3 hour walk, a trip to a cafe/pub to rest, and then dropped back home after.
Prices will vary depending on the area but it's totally possible to find care for a pup. Just be aware that not all dogs do well in daycare settings and loads and loads of exercise doesn't necessarily mean a tired dog!
We’re thinking along these lines as dd1 is 12 and has always loved dogs and can get anxious. We think it would help to have a family dog, however dh and I are very clear in our thinking that we as a couple would like a dog to add to our family. We also have dtds who are 8 (almost 9) and are less needy/more independent. I’d never have a puppy and a pre schooler - sounds madness to me.
We, like many others, have had our summer holiday cancelled/postponed and a close colleague has a pennant cocker spaniel so everything feels like it’s falling into place. Dh was concerned about the training but he was suggesting names last night so I think he’s agreed. Dc have no idea as we need to know the pregnancy has been successful.
Dh will mostly be working at home and dd1 gets home by 3.05pm. If Dh has to go to work then there’s daycare next door for dogs, which I think could be good for socialising? (Might post that as a question on a new thread).
In your situation I think I’d get a cat (we have 2).
Based on your needs - I’d actually suggest a staffie (if you don’t mind that type of dog). They tend to be a little more person centric and make very good therapy dogs
We gave a cocker spaniel , is it show or working strain ( this makes quite a difference) . Ours is show . He is the most optimistic dog I know !
We got ours when the children were 14, 11 and 7 and he is the centre of our family , he has just turned 11 himself .
Cocker spaniels in my experience ( I grew up with one ) make fabulous family pets but they are quite tricky puppies. They are gun dogs and have any teeth like needles, cockerdiles , they also get the Zoomies and race around madly etc but if you get through this stage they are wonderful. I strongly recommend a good puppy class .
They love company , ours is show strain and is always up for a walk ( but can miss a day without climbing the walls ) but also loves cuddles and games . He has been fab over the years with a succession of teenagers through the house and has also been a welcome listener in times of angst and exam stress.
I would highly recommend reading the puppy section of the forum on www.cockersonline.co.uk it quite literally was my bible when ours was a puppy and there is stacks of advice on managing children and puppies as well.
Thanks so much. Really valuable advice, and really appreciated.
@Peaseblossom22 thank you... I love spaniels. I’ll research this!
@vanillandhoney I’ve asked for a quote... great information, thanks
I agree with @Peaseblossom22 on spaniels being tricky puppies - but seriously cute and worth it eventually! Mine was referred to as BiteyFuck for a few months. He used to launch himself at us and grab at whatever he could reach - I wore one pair of jeans and one old sweatshirt whenever I was home to avoid everything being ruined and they’re both covered in small holes. He was quick to learn all sorts of tricks and very funny and sweet, but we were both knackered and covered in little scratches and bruises from being nipped! But that seems a long time ago now and he’s 11 months today and such a great dog! All the spaniels in the park are lovely too except one very grumpy old dog.
I worked in a special school and at this school as well as my own children's primary school, the dogs are collies. Beautiful collies.
My youngest is on the spectrum. We got our dog when he was one, so they were 'pups' together. Our dog is the most amazing dog on the planet! He's a labrador vizsla cross (mum's a chocolate lab).
I'd go with a Labrador, Vizsla, or Golden retriever, OP.
Smart dogs. Easy to train (more so the Vizsla and Golden Retriever) and the LOVE is huge. Amazing dogs.