Children and Toy Dog Breeds: Fact Verses Fiction

by Bill Knell

Because my wife is a toy dog breeder, it isn’t unusual for her to get several calls a week from people who practically beg her to sell them a puppy. They cite their financial and social ability to care for the puppy and often try and avoid the question of children in the household. As a rule, my wife finds this humorous. People shouldn’t have to beg, fill out a twenty-page adoption application or hide the fact that they have children to purchase a puppy. It’s pet protection gone wild.

There isn’t an honest or ethical Dog Breeder in the world who would send a beloved pup to someone they had questions about. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult and not entirely lawful to make that kind of determination. In most States it’s technically illegal to provide some sort of ‘test’ for a consumer to be able to purchase a product. That comes later and isn‘t the responsibility of the Breeder. A good example of a similar situation would be buying a car.

If a person has the cash or credit to purchase a vehicle and possesses a current drivers license, they get a car or the dealership gets sued in most places.  The dealership can’t run a check to see how many DWI summonses the person has had or how many times they have been convicted of speeding or some other moving violation. If they drive their new vehicle in an irresponsible manner, it’s up to the Police and Courts to decide if they should continue to do so.

There’s a lot of difference between a living thing and a vehicle, but not in the eyes of most state laws. If a Breeder feels that a puppy may be in danger, they can always take the chance of reporting the new owner to animal protection authorities. Those authorities will come to the owner’s home and check on the welfare of the puppy. If the puppy is not being properly cared for, it will likely be removed from the premises. However, most people that spend a substantial amount of money for a puppy are unlikely to mistreat or fail to care for it.

The quest for the perfect puppy owner is an obsession with many Toy Dog Breeders. I have always viewed these people as being selfish. They would keep every puppy if they could and probably have more dogs then they should already. This type of person will tend to restrict purebred registrations fearing that someone else might benefit from their years of careful breeding by having a litter of their own. Their concern for animal welfare extends well beyond the norm, has more to do with their personal obsessions then anything else and doesn’t take into consideration the joy a puppy can bring into a new owner’s life. Breeders like these have no real loyalty to their customers and view them as a necessary evil to move out extra pups they cannot keep.

If someone who is looking for a toy dog breed puppy can get past the egos and obsessions of these kinds of Breeders, the next hurdle they are likely to face is passing the ‘children’ test. Many toy dog breeders refuse to sell their pups to people with children under the age of sixteen. Some will actually refuse to sell a puppy to anyone with children under twenty-one living in their household. That’s ironic when children are likely to benefit the most from caring for a puppy.

Children are not the enemy when it comes to the health of toy dog breeds. The enemy is owner apathy. To my knowledge, more puppies have been injured in households where there are no children then in those were kids are a part of the puppy care process. That’s because adults are busy and will often forget to feed and water their animals, leave them unattended for too long in places or temperatures dangerous for them or place them with pet sitters who can’t even care for a goldfish, let alone a dog.

While it would be unwise to leave very young children alone with a puppy of any size, most children can easily be taught how to care for one. As a parent with seven children, I can attest to this. In the many years that my wife has been breeding toy dogs, not one of our puppies has ever been injured (and certainly none by our kids). Just the opposite. Our children have helped care for the puppies and alerted my wife if one seemed sluggish or might need a change of diet.

The most common argument made against allowing children access to toy dog breeds or most any puppy is that a child shouldn’t be allowed to learn responsibility at the cost of the health or life of an animal. While no one would argue with that logic, one wonders if that should apply to all animals, or just dogs. After all, pet stores sell tens of thousands of fish, small reptiles, rats, mice, guinea pigs, hamsters and snakes to children every day. Are the lives of those pets any less precious or valuable then that of dogs?

In reality, puppies and adult dogs are much easier to care for then fish, reptiles, rats, mice, guinea pigs, hamsters and snakes. It would seem an obvious mistake to ask a child to take on the responsibility of caring for a high maintenance pet when a puppy or adult dog is available. It’s also wrong to believe that toy dog breeds can be far more fragile then larger ones. For example, more German Shepards become ill or die each year from low blood sugar issues then any single toy breed, despite the fact that people often associate that problem with smaller breed dogs.


When it comes to children and puppies, it’s all about rules no matter what size breed is chosen. Children learn by example. If adults in the home are responsible with pets, the kids will follow that example. Simple things like cleaning up after, feeding, watering and securing the location of a puppy are essentials that any child can easily be taught. Every one of my children learned how to take care of dogs by watching us. It didn’t take long for them to understand the importance of feeding, watering and cleaning up after a pet on schedule. After watching us take care of our dogs, they wanted to take part in the process and were happy to lend a hand. Our younger children learned from our older kids.

When considering the addition of a puppy to a household of any size, there are some basic considerations. The first and foremost being the ability of household members to train, care for and spend quality time with a pet. Puppies are not play things for people of any age. They are living creatures capable of a surprising number of feelings and emotions. The next important consideration is how all the members of your household will react to a new pet. Will the puppy be a welcomed addition, or a point of contention and jealousy? A puppy should bring joy into the lives of people, not more problems.

If the members of your household all agree that a puppy would be a good addition to the family and they are ready, willing and able to meet the emotional and physical requirements of a puppy, then start your search. However, it’s important for children and adults alike to understand that puppies and adult dogs need care, love and attention everyday of the year. Their needs do not take a break for vacations, holidays, school or work schedules.

Puppies of any size or breed can bring a huge amount of joy into a household. It’s wrong to believe that children are a threat to a toy dog’s safety or quality of life. More puppies of all sizes are killed or injured each year by falling or accidentally being flung out of cars and trucks then have ever been injured by children. That’s because adults fail to properly secure their pets in a vehicle. We’ve all seen the idiots who think it’s cute to allow their pets to hang out the window or be bounced around like loose groceries in the back of a van, SUV or pick-up. 

If you ask them, most veterinarians will tell you that the vast majority of injuries to dogs of any size are caused by adults, not children. If injuries do occur because a child failed to secure their animal properly or got involved with some sort of rough play during which a pet was injured, they are far out-numbered by injuries involving dogs being watched or cared for by adults. After examining statistics compiled by various veterinarian organizations, rescue groups, breeders and government entities, I’ve found that more puppies and dogs die each year during routine teeth cleaning procedures in veterinary offices then are injured by children.

In the end, it’s not about the children, it’s about the adults in a household. If you do not have time to spend with your children, do not even consider bringing a puppy in as a replacement for your attention. You will not have the time needed to supervise your child as they learn to care for and train their new pet. If you do have enough time to teach your kids how to care for a puppy and supervise them throughout the process, it can be a wonderful experience for everyone involved (including the puppy).

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