Which Dog?

Parent Q&A

  • Hi there, my 10 year old son desperately wants a dog, and I do too, to expand the love and life in our household.  The problem is that I'm single mom who works full time and have no experience with raising a dog.  But my son has grown up with dogs in his life because his  local grandparents and cousins all have them.   We have a house with a secure yard, and while I work out of the home, my job is nearby.  I could also take time off when we first get a dog to get it settled.

    Looking for advice of all kinds on how this could work!  

    First, any recommendations on breeds and advice on how to even start finding a dog?  It seems like a housebroken rescue dog might best (as opposed to getting a new puppy), and we'd like a mellow, sweet disposition. Thinking about an english golden retriever or yellow lab.  Any specific places to work with to adopt or find a dog appreciated.

    Second,how do you deal with the logistics of having a dog when you work full time?  I am assuming we would get a dog walker, but is it okay for dogs to be alone 8 hours a day??  And what do you do on vacation?

    Advice of any kind as we go down this road very welcome.

    Thank you!!

    If you're interested in a pure bred dog, The golden gate kennel club has their annual show at the cow palace at the end of January. It's a unique show because it's benched, where all shown dogs have to be around and available to meet spectators to meet during the day. It could be a good opportunity to meet a lot of different breeds, and talk to people who own those breeds to discuss your situation. You can meet breeders who may have dogs available. If there is a dog breed you're very interested in, you could also ask about the local breed rescue groups.

    I grew up with retrievers and thought (incorrectly) that dogs had to be big to be great. If you want your dog to be easy to clean up after, both on walks and around your house, get some kind of a small doodle (mixed breed with poodle, or other that does not shed). A small dog has just as much personality as a large dog but much smaller poops and needs much shorter walks to feel exercised. We have loved our 12 pound cockapoo. He has a great personality, loves people, and was happy with a 5-10 minute walk in earlier years, and much less so now that he is elderly. If you get a small dog, you can install a doggie door so you can leave your dog but he can get inside when he’s done doing his business. Also, I recommend neutering or spaying at the earliest allowed edge, because this keep the dog feeling young and less likely to “hump.“ if you didn’t get your dog from a rescue place, please make sure you can foster the dog for about a week before you commit. A dog that behaves calmly and sweetly in the shelter may tear things up or be nervous in the house.Good luck!

    Having a dog is an irreplaceable experience for a child who is a "dog person".  Yellow labs and retrievers are a good choice.  Dogs have a natural inclination to not soil their den so training a puppy of these breeds where you want them to "go" should take only a short time.  If the dog will be left alone most of the day I would inquire if someone else who is working would like to leave their dog and yours together.  Or alternately if there is some one who is around their house would like the company of a dog during the day (free win-win exchange of great value.  Forme it is sad that dogs who wait patiently most days for their boy to come home from school are left behind on vacations.  A websites such as Bring Fido and Home Away will suggest many places where your dog will be welcome ... and I doubt your son will be happy about vacations where the plan is to leave his dog behind.  Some dog walkers also board which has the advantage that the dog is with someone they already look forward to seeing, and the dog might be out and about rather then laying with its head on its paws waiting.  What about your local relatives?

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Beagle, Corgi, or Tibetan Terrier?

September 2001

We're thinking of adding a dog to our family (our daughter is almost four) and I'm looking for some first-hand feedback. I've lived with dogs, trained puppies, and know the pros and cons of puppies v grown dogs, purebreds v mixed, and getting your pet as a rescue dogs v from a breeder v from the shelters.

Having thought this through, we're leaning toward a puppy and considering a beagle (I grew up with beagles), a pembroke corgi, or a tibetan terrier. I've done a lot of research on breeds -- I have a sense of the general qualities of each of these three that make them possibly compatible with our family.

My questions are: a) If you have firsthand experience living with these types of dogs and small children can you please say what you found to be great or difficult about that? b) If you know of a reputable beagle, pembroke corgi, or tibetan terrier breeder you'd recommend, can you please give me their contact info? Brenda

Generally terriers are not the best dogs for children but there are exceptions to the general part. Beagles are generally good - although I believe they have a tendency to dig - now whether they can dig a hole under a fence big enough for both the dog and the child to escape on an adventure, I don't know. Our labrador dug holes and he and our basset hound would go out for a stroll. He would find a mud hole to roll in. The Corgi's I have seen seem to have been good with kids. If you will go to Bears and Baubles on Solano in Albany and talk to the owner she has had Corgi's. He most recent one is so nice and she knows a breeder. She may also now of rescue groups. I have always got my eye out for a Basset as ours is elderly and our lab passed away, but if I see a Corgi I'll post it. Cindy Cindy

My family and I rescued a Tibetan Terrier from the SPCA about 4 years ago. We now have a 14 month old daughter, and we worried about how this high-strung dog would behave around the baby. In the end, he has been wonderful, but not because he is patient: rather, he is very skilled at getting out of her way when she wants to love on him with high-pitched squeals and hair pulling. The baby will also try to cuddle with the dog, by laying down in front of him and getting very close. He will allow that for a few seconds and then get up and walk away. All in all, we trust him with the baby and he is very protective of her, as long as we let him get away when he wants to. I think the baby's experience with a medium-sized dog has been a good one. She is not fearful of animals (or of anything else much, it seems), and we know that we will have to teach her soon to be cautious. My only concern with a Tibetan is that this is a herding dog, and a watchdog, and ours has a tendency to bark and run around when excited. However, he becomes very calm when the house is full of people, even if some of them are small children running around. I should caution you that we had this dog professionally trained away from our home for about a month, since we could see immediately that his normal high-strung nature would need to be controlled at times for the safety of the family, visitors, and neighbors. But he is a wonderful pet, and is good with the baby, my older stepchildren, and visitors. Jane

Good breed for toddler & working parents


We are researching dog breeds. I'd love to hear what experiences other families have had with pet dogs. We have had mixed breed dogs in the past and plan on purchasing a purebred puppy or finding an older dog through rescue. Our son is now 2 1/2. We want a dog that will be ok being left alone while we both work, and will be satisfied with daily walks during the week for their exercise needs. Thanks, Laurie

We too have gone the route of having mixed breeds and then getting a pure bred. After a lot of research and observation of different breeds we decided upon a St. Bernard. On the plus side:
\t1. gentle as can be -- they love people \t2. they sleep a lot -- they are real happy to only have to walk once a day \t3. they are very loyal to their families \t4. they do not bark a lot -- we have neighbors with sensitive ears \t5. they are really good with small children \t6. they like lots of attention On the down side: \t1. they eat a lot \t2. they are really big -- ours, when it stops growing will be about 175 lbs. \t3. they get a lot of attention in public -- this may not be a negative
Good luck in your dog search David

Regarding dog breeds. We have a Belgian Sheepdog. She's fairly large (60-70 lbs) and has a lot of characteristics similar to Collies and German Shepards. They are a very intelligent breed and have been used as search and rescue and police dogs....although more-so on the East Coast. I believe there is a Belgian Sheepdog rescue org. somewhere in the Bay Area.

She is very loving and has adjusted wonderfully from being an only child to sharing the house with our 9 mo. old son. She has even tolerated hair-pulling reasonably well. They tend to be a very emotionally attached breed and are great watch dogs. She has a fierce bark (but only when there are visitors...never without good reason...she won't even bark when other dogs bark at her) and looks fairly wolf-like (black w/long hair and a German Shepard shaped face).

She is fairly high-energy, but seems to be fine with daily walks and play time, and stays home in the back yard while we're at work. When we're home she's definately a house dog and doesn't want to miss out on anything the family is doing.

I would highly recommend a female of this breed (I think the males can be a little more agressive), if you can find one. They don't seem to be that common in this area...we feel like we lucked out when we got her 3 years ago. Kelli

With regards to the question on dogs. When I was growing up, we had an english springer spaniel who, despite the fact that I love our two current muts, I call the best dog ever. I was a teenager when we got her but she was good with kids and very easily trained. She even got retrained when she was about six to not go in certain parts of the house which she had been able to go to when my mom put in new carpets and started practicing what my father called, carpet worship.

Patches did shed some but we really did not keep up with brushing or grooming her which really would have made a difference. She did alright during the day by herself but loved it when people were around. Good Luck in your searches, Janette

Re Dogs. We have a dalmatian and I wouldn't recommend it for people with small children because it is so incredibly high energy, the child could be injured by accident. Also, ours is so protective of family that she has threatened playmates. Our day-care provider has two full-size collies and, if you can deal with the maintenance of the fur issue, they are fabulous. They are docile and loving and generally place themselves between their babies and strangers at the door. The babies have learned to walk hanging onto their fur and the dogs are great watchdogs, although they bark a little too much for my taste. One of these got over that habit after wearing one of those barkless collars for a month or so (It zaps them mildly when they bark.) These are excellent kid dogs and I have seen them actually grab the sleeve or pantleg of the older children to lead them to or from. If you consider a collie, check for decent eyesight and with any larger dog, hip dysplasia. Most purebred dogs have some health weakness due to breeding for beauty and most of those are well-known and published, such as dalmatian's tendency toward deafness and kidney problems. Barbara

We are on our 2nd West Highland Terrier. These are great dogs with kids. They combine terrier energy and intelligence with an outstanding and gentle disposition. Very friendly, and also, very attractive dogs. Easy to care for, and they don't shed. The white fur can get dirty but they are easy to bathe. At 20 lbs., ours have been a bit above average in size. Michael

A dog breed that I think is wonderful for kids/families is the golden retriever. I've had a dog most of my life--from small mutts, a German shepherd to a golden retriever--and enjoyed them all. I am, however, biased towards the golden. Though a giant at 105(!) lbs (LARGE, even for his breed), Duke is the sweetest dog I've come to know. We got him through the NORCAL Golden Retriever rescue when he was 3 and we all adjusted very well. Now 8 and the eldest member of the family, he's very docile and extremely patient with our 4 yr-old and 17 mos old kids. I am impressed with his calm disposition, quiet undemanding nature, and trainability. All he really wants from us is to pet him and if he could, sit in our laps!

Dog breeds aside, I would suggest that you check with the different rescue organizations to get more info about the type of dog you're considering in terms of temperment, medical conditions some breeds are prone to, and even to weigh the pros and cons of getting an adult dog vs. a puppy.

I was a volunteer with the rescue and fostered a puppy for a short time. I was in for a real eye-opener--puppies demand a lot time, energy and patience. Good luck! Karen

Cocker Spaniel

A breeder is Donna Prentice in Antioch, 757-1411. I can give you a contact for recommendations/better deal, etc if you contact me. Barbara