Adopting an older dog is a wonderful service to companion animals. Most people want puppies because they're little and cute and you get to keep them for a lot longer. But what about all of the older dogs that need homes? Perhaps their owners passed away or moved and couldn't bring them. If you're willing to add one of those guys to your family, you may just be on your way to joining the ranks of St Francis of Assisi.
But if you have small kids in the family, you have more to consider. Not all dogs are good with kids, and this is even more common in older dogs that have never been around them. So how do you know if an older dog will mesh with your family?
There are several factors to consider. Does the dog have a history with kids? If you can find out any history about her previous owners, they should be able to give you some idea if she was socialized with little ones. Socialization, which happens early in a dog's life during an important part of her development, is key to future success with any relationships a dog has. You never know what experiences an older dog has had with kids in his past. If he was teased or handled in a way he didn't enjoy, then he's probably not likely to interact with many children.
If you don't have this information, then temperament is a good indicator, but remember that it's not always foolproof. A dog can be as sweet as can be with you, but get nervous when a small child enters the picture. Loud noises and flailing arms can make a high-strung dog even more so.
You can tell a lot from their breeds' history, too. Labs are known to be excellent family dogs and cocker spaniels are notoriously not so great with children. The key to having small children around any dog is to make sure they're constantly supervised and taught how to behave properly around dogs. We have anthropomorphized our pets into furry little people, but at the end of the day, no matter how much you trust yours, a dog is still a dog. It's always a possibility that she will bite anyone under the right circumstances. It's a very good idea to start teaching your kids at a young age that it's not OK to approach a dog without permission from the owner first. Kids that have good relationships with other dogs are the ones who are most prone to run up and give any dog a hug, and that's how bites happen.
So, the long and the short of it is that it's not bad to have the right older dog around a young child. Just make sure that both of their interactions are well supervised.