“The best way to find a dog that’s good with kids is to find a dog with proven history…”- jme
"Which is pretty easy to do in a foster system especially, where the dogs live with families who can discuss their specific behavior in a home.
Besides that, many dogs are abandoned through no fault of their own, but rather for financial and medical reasons (in the people). The perfectly well-behaved and loved family dog is suddenly left without a home in the shelter system. A dog that has lived well with children in the past is very likely to be able to live well with kids going forward—and this experience should be valued.
People often want to get puppies, thinking this is the only way to get a dog that is good with kids. Honestly, that’s probably the furthest thing from the truth there is…yet it is the number one mistake people make. To add to that, people believing that a purebred puppy with a known history is even better, and together you get the trifecta of false hopes…a belief that causes too many dogs to die in shelters each year.
The thing about puppies is people believe that a blank slate is better than a known one—but they end up not writing enough—or worse, writing the wrong things on it. People all too often end up with something different than what they wanted—much of it being their reinforcement of the wrong behaviors—and then they think there is something wrong with the dog.
Some of the most unsocialized, fear aggressive (a.k.a. ruined) dogs we have seen have come from good families with kids who got them as puppies but were too busy to actually socialize and train the puppy as it needed to be. They ruined the dog in their attempt to get the perfect family dog!
Sadly, these people often then go on to get another puppy, thinking there was something wrong with that breed (or whatever the excuse), never realizing their culpability in failing to help mold the dog they wanted. And even then, just like kids, dogs will still grow up with their own personalities, which may be very different from the dog the family wanted.
One thing I also believe doesn’t work well is when people want smart dogs—often working/herding dogs—for family dogs, without understanding how those often deeply ingrained tendencies can work against them. Those dogs can have very intense qualities and behaviors because they are bred specifically to do a job—one they won’t be doing as your family dog. The resulting anxiety or behaviors when these desires are not satisfied can lead to herding and nipping children, for example, especially if the dog isn’t given excessive exercise and other ways to channel their desires.
Lastly, no matter the breed, it is not easier to train smart dogs. It is harder because they think for themselves… so getting a smart dog does not make a better family pet. You’d be better of getting a fun, loving, dumb dog for the family because they are likely going to be far more willing to please you rather than themselves.
The important thing to think about when finding a dog that is good with kids is to consider that what you see is what you get (especially when it comes to any known history). If the dog is friendly, outgoing, and social—of any breed—then chances are it will continue to be this way in your home with your children.
A second-hand dog is not a bad thing for finding what you want in a family dog. Tried and true has merit when it comes to adopting dogs! Don’t underestimate the millions of great family dogs sitting in your local shelter or in foster care with a nearby rescue group. Many are purebred, and many have done nothing wrong to land themselves there. Just because people failed them doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with them!"