Many people wonder whether cavaliers will get along with their kids. In general, they are great dogs with kids -- but they are also small dogs and very small puppies, with vulnerable eyes and easily harmed. Many breeders are unwilling to home a cavalier puppy (as they are so small) to a home with children under a certain age, typically about age 7 to 10. Other breeders are very happy to home to a house with children, but will likely want to discuss appropriate behaviour for both dogs and kids in such situations.
Keep in mind that ALL dogs must be managed around kids under about 10-11 -- any one breed or mix, including the cavalier, is not generally 'better' than another, or less likely to bite. A startled or accidentally mishandled or teased dog -- all typical things that happen when kids mix with dogs unsupervised -- can inflict a devastating, even fatal, wound and permanent scar. If you have children and dogs, YOU the adult must manage those interactions responsibly ALL the time. Whether the adults feel able to take on that additional workload will help determine whether now is the time to get a dog, or whether to wait til kids are bit older.
Here are some statistics to put into perspective the importance of never taking ANY dog/kid interactions for granted, and yes, that means with your lovely gentle cavalier too!:
The key to understanding the size of the problem is in recognizing a few statistics:
- 70% of dog bite victims are children.
- 61% of dog attacks occur at home or at a familiar place.
- 77% of bites are by a family dog or the dog of a friend.
- Any breed of dog can bite.
- The list of dangerous dog breeds changes each year based on the most popular breeds.
- 44,000 dog bites to the face are reported in the US each year.
- Over 20% of reported dog attacks were by dogs that were chained or broke free from a chain.
- At least 16 documented attacks involved intact males attacking children near a female in estrus.
- Dog bites account for the 2nd highest number of children's injuries, behind baseball and softball.
- 25% of homeowners' insurance claims are bite cases.
- Of 4.7 million dog bite cases in 1999, 800,000 required medical care.
- 20% of bite case medical costs exceed $17,000 per case; 10% exceed $75,000.
- Insurance liability payouts for 2002 totaled over $345.5 million in dog bite related claims.
One major consideration for anyone with children, especially toddlers, is this: Am I ready to take on another full time 'baby'? For that is what a cavalier puppy will be. For the first few months, the new puppy will be almost as demanding as a new toddler in the house -- and must be watched constantly, taken out for housetraining, walked, played with, fed, taken out for housebreaking again, etc etc. This will continue until about age 5-6 months for the puppy, at which point it will become a bit more independent. But do not underestimate the time and effort a puppy will take. An adult dog may be a better choice (many breeders have older dogs to place), or wait til the (human) kids get a little older so you can devote the time to a puppy. If you don't have time for housetraining and obedience training during the pup's first year, it is likely going to be a problem adult, so be sure now is the right time for your family to take on this responsibility. As with kids, the time you give to a young puppy is going to shape the personality and promise of the adult dog it becomes.
One important thing to keep in mind is that even the best behaved child around the dog *while you are there* may be totally different when you leave them unsupervised together. Think of what kids do to each other when an adult is not keeping a direct eye on their interactions! They can be mischievous and often unintentionally get in trouble. Children also can be very cruel, even the sweetest child (think of playground activity -- an animal can be a helpless recipient of experiments or a child's anger or frustration or curiosity). However, with a dog or puppy, the results of a bad interaction can be very serious indeed. Statistically, most dog bites are to children, occur in family settings, and to the face area of the child. As one dog trainer puts it, a dog has a mouth full of the equivalent of carpet knives, even a cavalier. Puppy teeth are also needle sharp. So be sure child/dog/pup interactions are supervised interactions. Most children will have the most wonderful relationships with dogs, and will gain a lifelong love of animals from having a pet while growing up. But be sensibly cautious.
Also: be sure to set up a safety zone for your dog: http://deesdogs.com/documents/TheSafetyZoneHandout.pdf
Here are a couple of sites that give lots of great, practical, honest advice on mixing kids, toddlers and dogs.
A good summary handout you can download/print: http://www.sympawtico.com/images/Dow...%20Handout.pdf
Excellent advice from trainer Victoria Stilwell: http://animal.discovery.com/tv/its-m.../new-baby.html
Kids and dogs:
Toddlers and dogs:
Do dogs like hugs? and other good advice:
Babies and dogs: getting ready: