Kids and Small Dogs

Some rescues have a policy of not adopting out very small (under 15 pounds) dogs to families with younger children. Some rescues take it on a case by case basis. Here is some information from Atlanta Pet Rescue about why they do not:


Always remember that a dog perceives a child as another dog. When a child starts to irritate the dog (Fido) with relentless efforts to have contact when Fido wants to be left alone, Fido will react as he would if another dog were bothering him. He’ll try to ignore or walk away.  When the child keeps pursuing he’ll finally snap and then eventually bite. If you watch a litter of pups they often bite each other to communicate “leave me alone” or simply because they feel grouchy. Fido would never treat you this way. However, a child is only another dog to the dog. It’s their language – it’s all they have to communicate when all else fails. It’s usually a little scratch or bite – it would mean nothing to another dog, but a lot to a child. If the dog you are interested in is the type to bite another dog then he will bite your child if he feels it is necessary.

Tiny dogs tend to be high strung, and kids set a tone in the household that is NOT calming to them, thus sometimes bringing out the worst in their personalities. Kids like to run, scream, play, tumble and so forth. These things tend to make a small dog nervous and sometimes snappy. Or the dog may play rough the first year or two and then as he matures he may want only to be held – then he may not like the company of the kids. The dog may become so nervous that he may bite or just be hyper vigilant and barky, or he may take to hiding under the bed or in his crate. Also, he may love and hate the kids alternately according to their behavior. He may not bite YOUR kids but become so nervous that he will bite their friends. Then who pays for this mistake? FIDO DOES! He may lose his home and go to rescue if he’s lucky, OR to the pound or killed if not so lucky. All too frequently parents and the vet will decide it’s all Fido’s fault and not realize that the home was causing him too much stimulation. Countless times we have taken small dogs into the program who were extremely overstimulated. These dogs tend to want attention and then back up when you reach for them. They may show wild uncontrolled behavior or barking or may just be very distrusting and avoid touch. The reason is often because kids handled them roughly and then confused them with inappropriate yelling or hitting to control them.


Another problem with kids and tiny dogs is that they are small enough for the kids to carry around. Tiny dogs usually love being carried by adults/hate being carried by younger kids. They sense danger in the way they are handled by the child – they know instinctively that they may be dropped or hurt by the unsteady way a child carries them. Often when they see the child coming they equate it with a loss of their freedom and being handled against their will – perhaps in an uncomfortable manner. We all know how kids want to control the behavior of something smaller than them. Toddlers cannot discern the difference between a dog and a toy. They are not old enough to say to themselves “It wouldn’t feel very good to be toted around in such an uncomfortable position, so I won’t do it to my dog.” All too often, the parent thinks it’s adorable while the dog is losing patience and wanting Mom to save him from this torment. These small dogs will almost always try to be with the adults and avoid the kids. They may eventually growl when the kids approach and want to haul them around again. A dog with more weight will not be easy for the kids to carry around so much and he won’t be so intimidated by them. 15 lbs or more = more respect because the child cannot easily carry him around. We look for a dog for families that is going to enjoy everybody and not be afraid or uncomfortable in his own home. The family dog should eagerly approach the kids (a tiny dog may do it temporarily, but then hide from the kids). The family dog should be willing to play as long as the kids play. He should not be snappy with their friends. You shouldn’t have to put him away when kids come over – and you may indeed have to do that with a very small dog.


Even though your kids may love their dog, the tiny dog is at risk with kids. All kids tend to play carelessly sometimes. We have had toy poodles undergo painful broken bones and surgery to fix them resulting from children engaged in inappropriate activity. That certainly means additional veterinary expense for you. You cannot watch the kids all the time. There are many cases where kids rocked a chair back on him or closed a lazy boy chair on him or simply tumbled on him in play. Why risk it?