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Choosing a Family Dog: Ensure it's Child Appropriate, Properly Trained; Important Questions; a Child's Open Letter

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Ann is interested in animals and nature. The correct treatment of animals is high on the list. Hens in the garden is her latest venture.

My First Dog

When I was 6 years old my parents brought home a black labrador puppy from the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) centre in our area. She was beautiful. She grew into a strong, bumptious dog, affectionate and playful. That was the problem.

I don’t blame my parents but as I child I found it impossible to forgive their decision to re-home her. For a long time I couldn’t understand why they did that. Now, of course, I can see that she was too strong for me to take for a walk, too big for the home and garden we had and that she would have been a lot happier on a farm or somewhere with plenty of room for her to let off steam. I’ve no doubt that, if the new owner was a good man, she was just as happy with him, if not more so, than she was with us.

Black Labrador

Black Labrador

An Important Decision

She was never taken to training classes. I don’t know whether many of those existed then, in the late 50s, but some sort of training is vital for any dogs. I think she was too strong even for my father. Also, he was working so couldn’t take her out during the day and didn’t get home until gone 6 o’clock.

My parents made a bad decision to have her, although their intentions were good. They wanted to give her a kind, comfortable home and give me a cherished present.

This is aimed at those who are thinking about doing the same thing. Please ask yourself the following questions before you act.

Do you have enough Room for this Dog?

If the dog is of average size or more then it will need plenty of room in which to bounce about, plenty of exercise and walks each day. No excuse if the weather’s bad; you have to go out in the rain, snow, blizzard, thunderstorm, heatwave (within reason of course!).

The house itself needs a designated place for the dog’s basket or ‘den’ and don’t forget a tail can swipe away ornaments really easily.

If the dog is really big then consider keeping it in a kennel outside, or in a verandah-type area, as long as the dog can be warm and secure.

Is your garden secure? Do your fences have any holes in them? Can the dog get through the hedge and ransack the neighbours garden or attack their chickens? It’s great fun from the dog’s point of view; something moves, you chase it, right? If it makes a noise then it might be considered as a threat, so you chase it even more of course.

Are you beginning to see the pitfalls? Good.

Great Dane

Do you have the Space?

Do you have the Space?

Can your Dog Sleep Outside?

Can your Dog Sleep Outside?

Is the Dog an Appropriate Breed for Children?

There are breeds of dog which are illegal to own so obviously you avoid those. Any dog can maul or kill a child. It depends on what the dog regards as a threat, it depends on whether or not the child teases the animal. Never, never, leave the dog and child alone together unless the child is old enough to retaliate. The apparently calmest of dogs can turn for any reason - fear, anger, illness... Just be aware at all times.

It’s not always the large dogs who can be a threat; smaller breeds often bark and snap more, so can cause concern.

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Jack Russell

Small but sometimes Snappy

Small but sometimes Snappy

Does your Child Understand how to deal with/respond to a Dog?

Teach your child that a dog has feelings, emotions. Teach your child to be gentle with animals, to play carefully with them and not to take away or go too near to its food.

Throwing and fetching is great because the child doesn’t have to touch the dog. Stroking a dog has to be done in such a way as to give the dog confidence that he won’t be suddenly smacked, or have it’s nose tweaked or be sat upon. It’s best to stroke a dog just below the chin or on the upper chest. A stroke or pat on the head can be scary or threatening.

Do you have adequate Facilities or Money to train a Dog?

A dog needs to know who’s boss, where he stands in the pecking order (I know, it’s not a chicken, maybe I should say pack order). He needs firm, kind discipline, given in a tone of voice that commands respect but doesn’t yell and instill fear.

Lots of rewards will slowly reinforce good behaviour and then you have a dog you can confidently take anywhere. He won’t pull, she won’t jump up, he won’t bark. Rewards can include doggy sweets, favourite toy to play with and, perhaps the most important, a big fuss and a ‘good boy!’ in a high enthusiastic voice. Your pet will be even more keen to do what you want.

Discipline is Paramount

Collar, Lead... & Obedience!

Collar, Lead... & Obedience!

Have you done enough Research on How to Look After a Dog?

Look up different breeds. Make sure you know what is required for that breed, including whether or not they need combing or brushing more regularly than the average (such as an Afghan Hound). The size of a dog will dictate how much and how often it needs to eat each day.

Which dogs are considered best with children? Choose the dog which best fits all your needs and all your facilities.

Have you Considered what you'd do when you go on Holiday?

Will you take the dog with you?

You need to choose camp sites or hotels which are pet-friendly. You need to make sure your insurance covers this.

You need a ‘chip’ in your dog (usually in its shoulder) if you want to take it abroad. You’ll then need a vet’s certificate several days before you come back to say the dog is fit for travel and has no diseases.

If you don’t take it with you, do your homework regarding local kennels and find one where the dogs have plenty of room, an exercise area which is big enough, and fellow dogs for company. A good one isn’t necessarily the most expensive but it’s not a cheap option for more than two or three days.

Do you have Insurance to cover Vets' Bills?

Vets’ bills can be huge! An unexpected break of a dog’s limb, or an infection, or an accident, can mean your dog might be at the vet’s for a prolonged time. An injection can be expensive. Any treatment is costly; even a consultation. Don’t think, ‘It won’t happen to my dog.’ It might!

Talk to someone you know who has dogs. Ask them lots of questions. Ask them for advice. You’ll probably find out about all sorts of things that you hadn’t even considered. Forewarned is forearmed. Do your homework!

Care & Expense

Do I have to wear this?

Do I have to wear this?

Consider the Welfare of All - Dog, Child, Parents

Please make sure that you not only think about the welfare of the dog but that you make sure your child is going to have a long and happy relationship with it. Make sure you minimalise the possibility that you’ll change your mind about the dog’s suitability.

Losing a much-loved pet which becomes a companion, a member of the family, can cause long-term damage to a child’s happiness and to a child’s trust.

If you’re not sure, then don’t do it!

Maybe leave it until the child is old enough to have the discussion that a dog must have certain conditions, must behave and must be of the right temperament, size and breed.

Please Think Twice, Think Carefully

Below is an open letter I wrote to my beautiful Trudie, the black labrador of my childhood. I wrote it in my late teens; the memory was still fresh and the anguish still raw. Even now, reading it brings tears to my eyes. I did forgive my parents but it took a long time.

I’m including it in the hope that anyone reading won’t put any child through this. I have not edited it since it was first penned; it's a child's view of what happened.

Please think twice. The old adage ‘a dog is not just for Christmas’ is overused but it’s true, nor is it for birthdays, Easter or any other reason than for the mutual benefit of dog and family. It’s for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer too. Ok, I know it’s not a marriage but the same rules apply.

True Companions

Looking After Each Other

Looking After Each Other

An Open Letter to a Faithful Friend

Dear Trudie,

Whatever became of you? I was six and you came into our home from the local orphanage. We took pity on you - tiny, bedraggled and pining for a lost mother. You shivered and we wrapped you in a soft blanket and cradled you all the way home. We gave you a basket to sleep in and a special dish for your food.

I was so proud and so protective. You needed someone to look after you and I would give you all the love you wanted. I had no brothers or sisters at home and I wanted someone to play with. This was better than inviting a friend round for the afternoon. This was for keeps.

You were soft, silky and satin-pawed. You flopped about, threw yourself on your bed to sleep after a hard half-hour’s mischief and had twitchy dreams of the rabbits and birds you chased. Did you ever catch any? Probably not. You had no stealth or guile; just a vibrancy of life and an insatiable appetite for knowledge of the small world around us.

I adored you; you were mine. My playmate, my confidante, my friend. We played in the garden. I threw the ball for you to fetch and you dropped it back at my feet, eager for more. How did you know when I was only pretending to throw? I could never trick you. You never refused to play with me. You never got cross with me. I always tired first.

Trust & Training

You trusted me. I spoilt you; you sat on my lap until you grew too big for my small frame. That was the problem, wasn’t it? You grew. So quickly. You couldn’t help it. It wasn’t your fault. When I sat in the armchair your head was on a level with mine as you stood before me, willing me to take you for a walk, nudging me on the knee with your paw, head on one side, bright, intelligent eyes searching my soul. Liquid brown expressions pulling at my heart.

They didn’t tell me about training; you were strong, full of life and exuberance, eager to broaden your horizons. You pulled at the leash and I did not have the strength to restrain you. I ran frantically behind, desperately holding on as you took me for a walk. If only you’d realised what was happening. If only you hadn’t been so energetic, so impulsive; but then you wouldn’t have been my special Trudie, would you?

Do you remember the day you licked clean a whole bowl of custard off the kitchen table? Somehow you realised your mistake and I saw your guilty expression before I saw the bowl. It was too good to resist, wasn’t it? How could you have known it wasn’t for you? You hid under the table, ears down, eyes woeful, tail between your legs, waiting for your fate. A few harsh words came your way but your fate was still to come.

Too Big, too Strong

You were almost fully grown. Your coat was glossy black, your eyes bright with intelligence, your nose wet and into everything, your ears alert and never missing the smallest sound, near or far. You radiated health and a zest for life.

‘I think Trudie is too big for our bungalow,’ they said as gently as they could. No! You were mine; you were my friend. Did you hear them? Did you know what would happen? No, or you would have helped me wouldn’t you? You would’ve behaved better so you could’ve stayed with me, gone everywhere with me, walked and talked and played with me.

‘It’s cruel to keep her here. We ought to find her a new home where she will have plenty of room.’

‘No!’ I couldn’t find the words to tell them what I felt about you. They didn’t understand how much you meant to me. You were beautiful. You were innocent. You were mine. It wasn’t your fault you were so strong and full of life. You were happy and you loved me and oh how I loved you! What fun you were! I didn’t want you to go away.

Without Warning

They came to me when I was tucked up in bed and crying one night. They explained again and asked me to be kind and let you go. ‘No. No.’ Why did they ask if they knew the answer made no difference?

Without warning, one evening the man came. I didn’t like him.

‘This man has a lovely big farm and he’s going to give Trudie a good home.’

‘I don’t want her to go! No, no, no,’ I sobbed.

That’s all I could say for you. ‘No, No, No.’

You had no choice and neither did I. He took you away and I never saw you again. I cried for so many nights. My world was empty. Did you cry too? Did you miss me? I couldn’t say anything to anyone. They had betrayed me. The loveliest thing I had ever wanted had been mine for six months and then suddenly you were snatched away.

How could I Understand?

I didn’t know where you were so I couldn’t come to visit you. I hope you understood. I wanted to; it would have been easier to cope if I could’ve seen you happy somewhere, even if I could not have you back. I didn’t understand.

They promised me a budgie instead. I felt insulted. How could that make up for you? Nothing ever made up for you. I didn’t want a budgie; I wanted you. I spent weeks, maybe months, thinking maybe you’d come back by yourself or that they’d feel sorry for me and bring you back but you never came.

I Hope you were Happy

Was he kind to you? Were you happy? Did you really have a lovely, big farm to play in? I hope so because otherwise that man deserved the worst. I have never forgiven them because they did not understand, because they gave me a treasure then took you away.

I hope you were happy in life and peaceful in death, for that must have happened some years ago now. I wonder if you ever had puppies.

Thank you for the few months of joy you gave me. I can still see your beautiful eyes and feel your wondrous joie de vivre. I see you often in my memories. I still feel the pain. I hope you felt none. I hope you just went on to further adventures with a fond memory for me who loved you.

You taught me many things. Your loss taught me this: my children would never have a pet unless they had it for life. That much I owe you. I hope you forgave me for letting them take you away. Maybe I’ll see you again one day and you can tell me all about it.

With love, Ann.

Have you got, or had, a family dog?


Suitable Dog Breeds for Children

Dog Training

Large Dog Breeds

Small Dog Breeds

© 2014 Ann Carr


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 06, 2018:

Yes, it took me a long time to understand but my parents thought they were doing the right thing and they probably were. They were lovely parents and that was my only gripe - ever! Thank you for reading, Peg.


Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on September 06, 2018:

A dog is not a gift. That can't be said often enough. And taking back a gift given to a child, that of a live sibling, a trusted companion, is unthinkable. It makes me sad for you that your precious loved one was taken away. That's something we never forget.

We had many precious family dogs during my childhood and now, as an adult, I've seen eight welcomed and six who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge as old dogs. We loved every one of them.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 11, 2017:

Yes, Claire, many dogs end up at the RSPCA or other dog rescue kennels, just because people haven't thought things through. The dogs can't choose so we owe them respect and care.


Claire-louise on August 11, 2017:

I really like this advice, so many people rush in because they want a dog, but they don't think about what is best for the dog.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 28, 2014:

Hello Allison: I so agree. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Allison Loker on December 28, 2014:

Thank you for this hub. It is so very important for people to really consider what goes into owning a dog before buying or adopting one. The whole family should be on the same page and lots of research should be done before deciding on a breed.

Thanks again!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 27, 2014:

Thank you, Mary, for your lovely comment and your votes. It is heartbreaking when a loved pet has to be taken or given away.

Good to see you today. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.


Mary Craig from New York on December 27, 2014:

I think Bill has said it best. Your important message and then bam, your sad and beautiful letter. I have a neighbor who gave a dog away because of his size....I was an adult, he wasn't my dog, and still I was heartbroken. Your writing here brings back memories.

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting. Shared too.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 27, 2014:

Thank you, Jo. Yes, it was a heart ache and reading that letter still makes me cry! I actually wrote it when I was at college, to get it out of my system.

If it makes just one person stop to think about getting the right dog, then I'm happy and, as you say, this time of year is when many want to have a new family pet.

Thanks for stopping by. Happy New Year, Jo!


Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on December 27, 2014:

Ann, this is ideal for the time of year and so well done! Labrador pups are so adorable they are very hard to resist and although the dogs do have a good friendly temperament, I can see how your parents got into difficulties. It must have been heartbreaking for the young Ann, giving up her friend. A well needed article, I hope many people will read this article before getting a dog, or indeed any pet.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 27, 2014:

peachpurple: Thank you for commenting. I love Great Danes; so regal and aloof and that lovely colour.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 27, 2014:

nanderson500: Thank you. Yes, it's an important decision. Great to hear that you have made the right one; sounds as though those dogs are doing well and I'm sure they're really happy. I appreciate your visit.


peachy from Home Sweet Home on December 27, 2014:

My aunt used to have the great dane, sturdy tall and handsome but fierce

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on December 26, 2014:

Mary: Thanks so much for reading and voting. Your little dog sounds lovely. Hope you've had a good Christmas.


nanderson500 from Seattle, WA on December 26, 2014:

Nice work! My sister recently adopted a dog, and I adopted one myself a few years ago and still have him. Great advice! Picking a dog is definitely an important decision that requires a great deal of thought.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on December 26, 2014:

Oh, how sad! I have a friend who has a Lab and it is so good with her kids. They do have a large yard for the dog to run in, though.

I have a little Min. Schnauzer that is just perfect for me. I live in a tiny apartment, but I do have a fenced in area for her to run in, and I take her for two walks every day.

Voted UP, etc. and shared.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 05, 2014:

CraftytotheCore: Thank you for your kind comment; your support is much appreciated. Ann

CraftytotheCore on April 04, 2014:

What a beautiful story! Everything you say here is right on.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 20, 2014:

Thank you Victoria. Yes, I'm much more objective now of course, but it was a terrible blow at the time.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Thanks also for following me! Ann

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on March 19, 2014:

Oh, your letter choked me up. That would be so painful. Any pet I've gotten, whether I chose it or it was dumped on me, I have kept it until death. I can't imagine letting my dog or one of my cats go to another home. I'm sure your Trudie missed you, but I hope she adjusted and had a wonderful life. Nice hub.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 19, 2014:

Thank you teaches. Yes whether on a whim or with good intentions, it's sad for all concerned when things go wrong. I always appreciate your visit and your valuable input. Hope you enjoy your day. Ann

Dianna Mendez on March 18, 2014:

Your post is touching. I know families who have gotten dogs just because they thought they were cute -- had to have it. Later, the poor pooch was either abandoned or given away. Great advice here for those who are considering a family pet.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 18, 2014:

Thank you, Rusti, for reading and for such a lovely comment. We do suffer when pets go. I find it easier if it's death because that's final and we can do nothing about it; losing one to someone else is gut-wrenching.

I greatly appreciate your visit and your input. Ann

Ruth McCollum from Lake Oswego, Oregon on March 18, 2014:

I so relate to this I'm crying... i just put my girl down last year from cancer.I am afraid to get another dog. However I hike i miss hiking with a dog... any pet the first one I lost was my beloved cat at about 6 too, Beautiful sad story. A true write awakens emotions. You do just that.. great job!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 13, 2014:

tehgyb: Yes, that's a definite pre-requisite! Thanks for reading. Ann

Don Colfax from Easton, Pennsylvania on March 13, 2014:

Gotta love dogs!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 13, 2014:

always exploring: Thank you very much for your comment and your kind votes; much appreciated. Yes, I didn't mention really wanting a dog, did I? Good point. I guess people just fancy the idea and then blindly go ahead sometimes. Hope you have a great day. Ann

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on March 12, 2014:

Ann, I agree with all the above comments. It is so very important to first, want a dog, then to take good care of it. I had a chihuahua named Blackie, a gift for my son, we all adored him. Voted awesome and interesting. Thank you..

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 12, 2014:

Thank you Eddy for such a lovely compliment. I'm so glad you liked this hub.

All the best. Ann

Eiddwen from Wales on March 12, 2014:

Oh so sadly beautiful and the words of a true writer with a heart as big as houses. You are indeed a wonderful writer Ann and I am honoured to be able to share these gems.

Take care and wishing you a wonderful day.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 12, 2014:

Thank you, Jodah, for your kind comments and vote. Yes, even when we understand as an adult, the pain of the experience still remains, as you know yourself.

I appreciate your visit, as always. Have a great day! Ann

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 11, 2014:

What a wonderful hub Ann. Especially the open letter to a faithful friend. I can relate as the same thing happened to me with my first dog, a collie named Skipper. It took me a long time to forgive my parents for that. You give wonderful information here as well for people considering getting a dog. Voted up.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 11, 2014:

VVanNess : That sounds like brilliant planning to me! Well done and congratulations! Hope everything goes well and that you have a great family, dog included. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 11, 2014:

Yes, Colleen, it's the family unit that's important. So many don't look at the larger picture. Thanks for reading and for your wise input. Ann

Victoria Van Ness from Fountain, CO on March 11, 2014:

When we were married, we knew we would want dogs in our family, but we wanted to have well-trained dogs by the time we had little ones in the household. I feel like we timed it just perfectly. We now have 1 and 2 year old labs and are just now pregnant! Score!

Colleen Swan from County Durham on March 11, 2014:

Thank you Annart for this useful and comprehensive article. It brings home the need to consider the implications and future effect on the family cohesion before bringing in a new member.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 11, 2014:

Thanks DDE; appreciate your comments. Ann

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 11, 2014:

It is so important to make the right choice when choosing a family dog the temperamental dogs can hurt family members a thorough research is a must but you made your points very clear in this informative hub

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 11, 2014:

Thank you, Frank, for reading and for your comments. It seems to be having the desired effect and I just hope it reaches some who need to think carefully about the issue. I appreciate you stopping by; enjoy your day! Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 11, 2014:

Dolores, thank you very much for your input. It is a serious subject and the RSPCA kennels are always full; it's so sad. I'm glad it touched you. Your input is greatly appreciated. Ann

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on March 11, 2014:

Annart I have to agree with Rose this was just absolutely amazing..but drenching as well.. not so much drenching, but draining.. nonetheless it was amazing

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on March 11, 2014:

Hi Ann - what a touching way to introduce an important topic. So many people bring dogs into their homes only to "throw them away." How sad that is. Keeping a dog is a big commitment. The rewards are huge but one must be prepared and able to meet that responsibility.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 11, 2014:

Nell, thank you so much for a wonderful compliment. It blew my mind! I'm so glad you liked this. Although I don't like making people cry, it was designed to do just that in order to bring home the impact of such things.

I greatly appreciate your visit and thank you for following me.

Hope you have a great day. Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 11, 2014:

Faith: thank you so much for lovely comments and your input. I love Chocolate Labradors; an ex-student's family used to breed them and I was very tempted but we travelled a lot then. Hope yours gets on well at obedience - you're obviously doing it all responsibly, as I would expect from what I know of you!

I later had two rescue part-Collie dogs, sisters; they were wonderful though completely different - one extravert, the other introvert! Long gone, sadly.

Thanks for the votes and sharing; much appreciated. Hugs to you too. Ann

Nell Rose from England on March 10, 2014:

Wow, now I am in floods of tears! this was an amazing, useful and so true hub, then you totally tugged at my heart. And that's what is so wonderful about it. Sometimes we can write a piece that explains the subject in a way that we understand and agree on, and then someone will write like this, and totally make us understand how important it is, amazing isn't the word, wish there was a button for 'sheer brilliance'! nell

Faith Reaper from southern USA on March 10, 2014:

Oh, my goodness, dear Ann, this tugs at the heart and then some!!! Excellent writing and an important hub here and timely too. We have just gotten a wonderful Chocolate Lab and he is as you describe, but he is growing so fast and just a puppy so full of life but he doesn't realize just how strong he is and our grandchildren were up this weekend, and they are still quite small and could not handle him. So, we are going to send him to obedience school and see. Funny, that you pictured a Jack Russell, as our Cookie was the perfect little dog for our family, and she loved all the grandchildren, but she did not like any strangers for sure.

A lot of great information provided here to think about and your open letter is just heartbreaking no doubt. Thank you for sharing it with us all.

Up and more and sharing

Hugs and much love,

Faith Reaper

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on March 10, 2014:

I've come to realise that it's true that writing from the heart brings out the best of us. I didn't even think when I wrote the open letter; the emotions just flowed onto the page. I haven't changed a word. I found it the other day, going through some old papers. Making a hub out of it was the difficult bit!

Thank you so much for your wonderful comment. Praise indeed. I truly appreciate your support and I'm so pleased that you like this; it's very close to my heart, as you might have guessed!

I hope you & Bev have a great evening, bill. My day's ended now so I'm off to catch some shut-eye. Sweet dreams! Ann

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 10, 2014:

What a beautifully-written article this is. You start with an excellent introduction that sucks us in, then deliver an important message, and then wring us dry of tears with your letter. My goodness, Ann, I think you just wrote your best work yet. Well done my friend...well done!


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