There are many breeds of dogs that can be happy on a farm, living with children and teaching them how to look after and love another living creature. Children will learn about consistently providing food, water, exercise, and affection. A dog's unconditional love makes them the perfect pet for a family.
You may have your personal breed preferences, but there are practical considerations to remember when you've got kids and live on a rural property. Here's what you will want to look at to find the perfect dog breed for your family farm.
You might think that the smaller the dog, the better for children. However, toy-sized dogs such as tiny terriers or Chihuahuas aren't the best choice when you have kids. These smaller puppies are delicate, and a fall off the bed or an accidental squeeze could do damage. You could put in a pet ramp for your bed, which you can find out more about here.
With very small dogs, you’ll also need to keep a closer eye out for predators like coyotes and hawks. Small dogs tend to stick close to their owners, but if they wander, they’re at greater risk because they’re less able to defend themselves.
Very large dogs aren't much of a better choice for families with small kids, either. Large dogs can be too rough-and-tumble with small children, especially when they’re romping outside.
Your living conditions are also a factor—if you want a dog that’s primarily a house dog, remember that large dogs don't do well in smaller spaces.
Big dogs need lots of exercise, which seems easy to provide when you have a property that's big enough for them to run around in. German Shepherds and other large breeds need structured exercise, though, so you still need to give them walks and/or activities to do to keep their minds and bodies busy (and to make sure they don’t run off to the neighbour’s).
Letting the dog out the back door won’t provide the same exercise opportunities as going for walks or working with your dog. And if your child says, “Don't worry, I'll walk him!” remember that this might last a day or two, and then the job will fall in your lap!
If you travel a lot or don't have the time to take an active puppy out for long walks and runs, you might consider a breed that requires less exercise. Pomeranians or Shih Tzus need lots of affection but not as much running time.
Long-haired dogs need frequent grooming, especially when they live on a farm. Some dogs need to be brushed every time they come in from the outside. A Border Collie's long coat might look attractive, but it requires upkeep on your part.
If you don't wish to regularly bathe a muddy dog or spend money at a professional grooming salon, you may prefer a breed with shorter hair. Beagles or dachshunds only need brushing and a bath every once in a while.
If you are someone who loves a clean home free from pet hair, you may want to look at how likely your chosen breed is to shed. Some dogs shed less than others, such as Lhasa Apsos and Border Terriers.
If anyone in your home is allergic to pet hair, you might want to choose a more hypoallergenic breed. Fortunately, breeds like Bichon Frises and Schnauzers produce less of the dander that causes allergic reactions.
Before bringing a dog home, spend time with the dog to make sure you don't react. You could be sensitive to either their coat or their saliva, so let the dog lick your hand or face and check if your skin reacts.
Just like horses, the smaller the dog, the longer they tend to live. There's no guarantee as to how long your pup will live, but usually, larger dogs tend to live eight to ten years, compared with smaller breeds who can live for twelve to fifteen years. Consider your child's age to make the best decision for you.
Some Breeds to Consider
Here's a list of some of the most popular breeds for family farms:
- Labradors. These dogs are very loving and are full of energy for play, but likely won’t chase your livestock.
- Pugs. Pugs are great for rough play with children, and they are friendly dogs.
- Australian Cattle Dogs. These are great working dogs who are clever and love to do jobs.
- Golden Retrievers. Good-natured, friendly, and clever dogs.
- Shetland Sheepdogs. This breed is full of love and obedience.
- German Shepherds. These dogs are intelligent, sensible and protective of their family and home.
- Poodles. Poodles are good with children and have lots of energy to burn.
Although the above list contains some popular breeds for family farms, experts say that any dog who has been well-trained and has the right personality can be good around children and farm animals. As with horses, the breed might tend to have certain traits, but each animal will be an individual.
Don't forget rescue dogs as an option! The great thing about adopting a rescue dog is that typically staff will have spent enough time with the dog to know their character. Talk to your local animal shelter and tell them your requirements, and they will be able to advise you. Plus, you could be saving a dog's life, and they will be grateful!