What type of pet should we get for our kids?

February 12th, 2013 posted by Family Corner Staff

Photo Copyright Amanda Formaro/The Family Corner.com 1998, 1999, 2000


“We have three children, ages 8, 5 and 3. We would like to get a pet but am not sure if we should get a cat or a dog. Any suggestions on the type of pet, how to teach the children respect for the animal, and any other advice is welcome!”

Answers from our members:

Kate wrote:

I am a teen and we had a dog and a cat. Our dog died no that long ago and it was hard to cope with the loss. I think that you should consider getting a dog because they are very playful. On the other hand they are hard to train and take a lot of effort, and if you are gone on vacation they get sad. So you should also look in to a cat because they are playful and a lot easier to take care of when you are away. On the downside some become fat and lazy and not as playful. I suggest since you have kids that a dog can get them to run around and exercise. Then when the kids grow older and don’t have a lot of time for it get a cat to play with!!

Julia wrote:

I have a friend who was dealing with the same situation as you. Her solution was to take her children on a day trip to the local SPCA. From there she got a feel for what type of animal would be best for her family. Her eldest wanted a dog (a big dog!), but she was a little weary about who would end up looking after a big dog…so she made a deal with her kids, if they could go to the SPCA every day for a month and walk a dog they would get one as family pet. It worked, at the end of the month the family got their dog (one the kids fell in love with at the SPCA) and they learned (beforehand) the responsibility they must share for “Opi”.

Theresa wrote:

We have a black Labrador named Molly (labs and golden retrievers are tied #1 best with kids) and she is excellent with the my one year old son. They play together very well and, in fact, Molly will sit right there while my son plays around and oftentimes over her. They’re fun to watch. Labs do need exercise though but with three kids, it sounds like the dog would get the exercise (and love) it needs. For yourself, I would consider getting a 2+ year old lab because they’re more calm. However, if you can handle the first year of “puppyhood”, it’s the best thing for the kids — it teaches the older ones about birth, and it will teach the younger ones about “being nice” to a little one. Best of luck, T.

Joy wrote:

I have one child, age 2. We have 2 dogs and one cat. We live in the country on a small (very Small) farm so we also have sheep, chickens, a goat, and pigs in the summer. Animals are great but they can be a lot of work. They need clean water, food, exercise and attention. They rely on you, their family, because they are not self sufficient. You need to accept the possibility that you may end up providing most or all of the animals care. Our son is great with the animals and they with him. A cat is a lot less maintenance than a dog for sure. Cats are a lot more independent, don’t need to be walked everyday and if they are “indoor” cats only need the litter box changed as opposed to having to be let out. Dogs require more attention and exercise, will you be home with the dog or will it be in a crate or kennel while you are at work/school? Will you have time every evening to make dinner, clean up, help with homework and walk/play with the dog? One of our dogs came from a family that got him as an 8 week old puppy and then they kept him the garage all day while they were at work/school, they didn’t pay attention to him and as a result he was a “bad” dog. We took him in at 9 months and dealt with his separation anxiety for almost 1 year. He is a 90 LB 3 year old yellow lab with a heart of gold. You could not ask for a better pet but it took a long time and a lot of patience. Please think about your pet choice carefully, sometimes people get pets they can’t care for and the pet ends up at a shelter and he doesn’t understand why, you are his family and he loves you, what did he do for you to send him away? Animals are great, they love you no matter what, are always happy to see you and mine would lick you to death given the chance. Best Wishes!

Pam wrote:

Our house has always had many pets, both cats and dogs. I have one daughter, 10 , but I run a day care in my home with many children under 5. I have found that dogs are more tolerant of children, some even helping in the babysitting..lol, but our cat (Siamese) has taken to our daughter now that she is older and won’t let anyone pick her up except the children. I really think it depends on the temperament of the animal, and not necessarily the breed. Our pitbull/rotweiller is the gentlest with the youngest children so do not always believe in what you hear. Puppies raised with young kids grow up with them and become life long buddies…cats do not. In fact the more they are manhandled as kittens the less they tolerate as adults. I have also found that the runt of the litter has always made the most faithful pet, at least in our situations. No matter what, it is the respect for the animal that you teach your children, that will bring them companionship and love. Both cats and dogs require attention and a lot of care, just different kinds. With little children, try to pick a dog that has a long life span. Learning about the loss of a pet should not come too early. Death of a pet is a lot for little children to deal with, even though in some ways it helps in the growth of children to learn of the cycle of life. Large dogs do not live as long as little ones, but I have found that they are the ones that are usually very good with children, ie, golden retrievers, golden or black labs (which is what we have), Great Danes, German shepherds. Just do a little research, and whatever you do, take your dog and yourself to at least one level of obedience classes. It will do wonders for the both of you. There is nothing worse or more frustrating than a dog that does not listen to a command. Protect yourself and those around you with a disciplined dog. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions. I have worked with animals and in animal clinics all my life and will gladly talk to you about any of your concerns. Happy pet/buddy hunting

Diane wrote:

WE have two dogs just now turning one year for each of them. We have four boys ages 9, 8, 6, and 2. They all love the dogs very much and each child has their own way of playing and working with them. The golden retrievers are an excellent family dog but you have to have room for them to run and get exercise. We live on a farm so it is no problem for us. As far as cats go, I prefer they stay in the barn or outside. They tend to be very particular about who they will hang out with and by all means do not declaw them unless they are never out of the house. Don’t get me wrong, cats are okay but I prefer the dog because they are just one of the family.

familycorner.com webmom wrote

: I think there are some excellent suggestions. I would like to add that getting your dog trained by a professional trainer is not necessarily the best thing for you and your family. BUT getting the assistance of a professional trainer is an excellent idea. What I mean is, do not have a trainer train the dog for you, but rather train YOU to train the animal. Animals will have respect for those who train them with love, understanding, firmness, consistency and patience. Check into obedience classes, ESPECIALLY if you have a puppy. Just like human children, they are little sponges and eager to please you.

Jeanne wrote:

We have always had cats. We have two now. I have two girls also who adore the cats. The cats are independent — yet loving. We can leave them at home all day and not worry about puddles on the floor or any other messes. My oldest daughter helps by feeding them on a regular basis. The girls go with me when I take them to the vet. This is a learning experience! Also, no messes to clean up in the yard!

Lynn wrote:

The key to the decision has to be responsible pet ownership. We got a dog because that is what I love and that is what I am interested in. If Mom and dad don’t really love taking care of the pet the children will not learn to “love and care” for the animal. We also have a turtle and a frog which are not nearly as much work but are certainly interesting and fun and have taught my children an appreciation for animals but it is my enthusiasm for the dog that makes it part of our family. My children (9 and 6) will happily feed, water, and clean up after the dog but I believe that is because normally I do these things and they see this as a very grown up thing to do. I doubt very much that just having the dog around would foster these caregiving feelings. My recommendation is to get a pet that the parents are excited about and this will influence the children the most. (If the parents are unaccustomed with pet ownership, I recommend lots of research including cost of keeping, life-span, maintenance, etc., etc., to find an animal that the parents feel confident to keep.)

Cathy wrote:

We have three kids, ages 8,6,4 and 9 dogs and 15 cats. Please do some research before you decide. If you have a family member with a pet or a neighbor see if you can pet sit at your house for a few days just to see how much time, care and love pets need. When you do decide please go to your local humane society and try to adopt. Some have some pretty strict adoption policies but it is worth it to save a life. Good luck and don’t forget to have your new pet spay or neutered!

Becky wrote:

We have 3 preschoolers that all have severe pet allergies (wheezing within minutes of being in a room that a cat or dog has ever been in). I opted for fish. You can find used tanks and other equipment a lot cheaper than buying it brand new. They require little maintenance and they don’t eat much:) I would only caution you to do some research on what kind of fish that you want to have to make sure that they can go in the tank together.

Jerry wrote:

The type of dog is not nearly as important as your approach to owning a dog. You can’t just buy a dog throw him in the back yard and leave him. A dog should be trained well, preferably by a professional trainer. Then you as the adult have to work with the dog every day to maintain his training level. If you don’t have the time or desire to be that involved then you better look at a guinea pig or an ant farm. If you do decide on a dog — my favorite is the English Springer Spaniel. This breed of dogs was made for children. We have two and love them to death. They are also easy to train.

Andrea Rose wrote:

Children aren’t really old enough to take full responsibility for a pet until they are at least 9 years old and then the parent still has the ultimate responsibility for the pet. Cats take less training than a dog. Personally my pick for a first animal is a guinea pig. Yes, the clean has to be changed and you must help the children with the care but they can reach in the cage to pet the guinea pig. It doesn’t require as many shots and as much expensive, it doesn’t run out in the road…cleaning the cage and clipping its nails, keeping clean water and food and being gentle when picking it up are the main things that will need to be taught to the children. As they get older and more responsible then I would move to a dog or cat.

Melanie wrote:

Whether you like Martha Stewart or not, she recently had a television segment on this very topic. (Here is the link, or just go to marthastewart.com, select television, then the date Feb 29.) The gist of the segment is that dogs (and I have 2 dogs, 2 cats, and a 2-year-old) are higher maintenance, especially if you get a puppy. It seemed that ferrets were favored, instead, as a first pet. It’s imperative that you go with what you genuinely like. Good luck! Melanie

Diana wrote:

I grew up with two dogs and now have cats. I have three children ages 10, 12, 13. My husband and I have had cats since before our children were born. They make great pets if you pick the right cat. The right cat must have the right personality! Not necessarily the prettiest or cutest Kitten. Sit down on the floor and see which cat likes to be held. Some cats don’t like to be bothered with and they will let you know. Other cats won’t stay away from you. Each of my children chose a cat that liked them and to this day those cats will sleep in those kids’ bedrooms almost exclusively. Another nice thing about cats is the simple fact that you can go away for a weekend and leave the animal alone. Just put out enough food and water and they will be self sufficient. You can also get away for longer periods of time if you have a neighbor come into your house and put out fresh food and water. You cannot do that with a dog. You either end up incurring expensive kennel costs or having to take your dog with you. Don’t forget about those daily walks in the rain and cold. Don’t get me wrong… I like dogs and they offer a lot of companionship however, cats are most definitely easier to take care of.

Sharon wrote:

If you go with a dog make an honest analysis of your family life. example do you like exercising outside, what type of yard do you have, time commitment. Time and love commitment are very important. so it isn’t simply leashed and forgotten once the newness and puppy stage is over. After you have determined your need and what you and your family are willing to do. Seek information about the breeds of dogs and their habits. Check the local vet or library. example; retrievers are mellow excellent with children and need a lot of running and exercise space. Greyhounds are gentle but like to run. Understand the behavior traits of the breed, and what meets your requirements before getting a dog. We have had retrievers, cockers, and schnauzers and we’re very happy with them all.

Laura wrote:

I have 4 children. After putting our dog to sleep last year I knew I was not ready for another dog. We now have a hamster, guinea pig, and a bird. Oh my God all a lot of work. I’ll take a dog any day. Just know that you’ll be doing the work so never tell the kids it’s your pet. IT DOES NOT WORK… Enjoy what ever pet you decide and wait for summer I think it is easier with a dog. Good Luck! Laura

Jenni wrote:

We have 4 children, 11,8,5,4 and we have found a cat who is declawed is good as long as the children learn to be careful not to hurt him. We have a dog, a pug, and they are great with kids. It’s the best dog other than a lab or beagle that we have found. The pug for us has been a great choice but as much as I have tried we still take the most care for them.

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