Why We Don’t Adopt to Families With Children Under 8

Children and dogs are perfect together, right? Well, not always. Golden Retrievers have a reputation as the quintessential kid-friendly canines, so it comes as a surprise and big disappointment for many families to learn that we require all children to be at least age 8. This policy, while not always a well-received one, is truly in place for the benefit of both our dogs and our adoptive families. We pride ourselves on both successful and safe adoptions.

We do make exceptions for puppies under the age of 6 months.

The Golden Retriever breed is, sadly, not the same as it was 20 or 30 years ago. Over-breeding and under-socializing have created many dogs that no longer fit that wonderful “family dog” image. This is not to say that it is not a wonderful breed, because it most certainly is! However, we are seeing many more behavior and temperament issues now than we did in the past, and this has affected our placement policies accordingly.

The following factors may help you further understand our policy:

  • Many dogs are surrendered to rescue because the dual challenges of raising young children and a dog proved too overwhelming for the family. As you can surely appreciate, we are therefore reluctant to place dogs back into situations where the same issue may reoccur, even with the best of intentions.

  • Some of our dogs come in as strays. Consequently, we do not know their backgrounds. Was he abandoned because he growled at a child who tried to take away his toy or chew bone? Was he an outside dog who was tormented by neighborhood kids? How will she react if a child steps on her tail or pulls her ears? Will he guard resources he deems precious, such as toys and food, putting tiny fingers or faces at risk?

  • Even if the dog was surrendered by a family or individual, we cannot always be sure the former owners have been completely forthcoming with us about the dog’s prior behavior. Sure, they may have said the dog was “great with kids,” but how can we really know for certain? Do we, or you, want to find out the hard way that a few important details were left out?

  • Even a dog that loves children can be incompatible with small ones due to their size. Large, strong dogs like Golden Retrievers can easily prove to be unwelcome family members when they start knocking over little children or playing too roughly with them, simply out of over-exuberance — a common trait in adolescent Golden Retrievers!

  • Children left unsupervised around any pet can quickly make a wrong choice when it comes to interacting with the pet. Kids often do not understand the “signals” a dog may be sending to “back off,” and as a result, the situation can quickly escalate. Just as children cannot be expected to understand a dog’s language, dogs are not “little people.” They are driven by instincts, and they have a different language.

  • The safety of the dog can be inadvertently compromised by young children. Children have been known to leave doors open or unlatched, presenting an opportunity for the dog to escape, where it could be hit by a car, lost or stolen. It is unrealistic to think that young children can understand the consequences of the dog getting out.

  • Thousands of animals are euthanized every year, often for doing something that comes very naturally to them — protecting themselves. Our experience has shown that even with the most knowledgeable parents, the most dog-savvy children, and the most child-friendly dogs, we can never be certain that an incident will not occur. We do not want to put the safety of family members, or one of our rescue dogs, at risk for such a situation.

Adapted from material originally published by Golden Retriever Rescue of Mid-Florida. We are grateful for their assistance.

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