As parents of a growing family with five kids, the oldest with special needs, my husband and I were asked the age-old question – Can we PLEASE get a dog? For obvious reasons, our initial response was “no way”! However, the begging continued relentlessly and we found ourselves open to considering the idea. The constant pleading was going to pay off.
If your kids are anything like ours, they will come up with a long and well-researched list of why adopting a dog would be a great idea for the family. Our kids came up with:
- ”Children that grow up with dogs learn responsibility and how to care for something other than themselves. Wouldn’t you like us to be responsible?”
- ”The dog will clean up after spills on the floor so you don’t have to.”
- ”We will get more exercise outside if we have a dog that can play with us.”
- ”Dogs love everyone. I think we have room for just a little more love in our house, Mommy.”
Of course, we had to at least consider those angelic little statements. After all, they were engaged and learning. Still, I kept wondering if bringing a dog into our already hectic lives would be too much. With nothing left to lose, our kids enlisted the help of their friends, other family members, and even teachers! Information was coming at us from all angles, but the deciding factor hit us when our son pointed out that certain dogs are bred as companions for children with special needs. We typed "The Best Dogs for Your Child with Special Needs" into our search engine, and what we found would change our lives forever.
What Breed Should I Bring Home?
Not letting on to our children that we had set our minds on adopting, we started searching the internet for breeds that were known to be great family pets, were easily trained, and who were known to be successful in the complicated art of responding to seizures.
Golden Retrievers are one of the most loyal, loving, gentle, and cuddly dogs bred into existence today. A significant portion of service dogs are golden retrievers because of their intelligence, gentle nature, and long life expectancy. These dogs are notoriously great with kids and other dogs, require little maintenance and will adapt well to the specific energy demands of any child.
Labrador retrievers are known for their protective nature while remaining calm and avoiding aggression. That is what makes this dog such a loyal, loving, and affectionate pal for your child. Labradors function well in all seasons including cold winters, confront strangers well, and are very playful.
Labradoodles are a creative mix between Labradors and poodles. This breed is hypoallergenic, sheds very little, and is known to be incredibly intelligent. Labradoodles have a gentle, calm, and loving nature, but possess the ability to be active and motivational. These dogs make excellent guide dogs and service dogs.
Samoyeds love cold weather climates. These dogs have all of the watchdog instincts that a German Shepherd has with all of the fluffy cuddliness of a Golden Retriever. Samoyeds are playful, affectionate, and have very mild temperaments. This breed is perfect for children with extra sensory needs.
Brittany Spaniels are high energy dogs that enjoy a lot of physical exercise. At the same time, these dogs take social cues well and will lie with your child on the couch when they are having a bad day. These dogs are very social, extremely affectionate, and function well in all seasons. These spaniels are good with strangers, handle rough housing as play, and have long lifespans.
That Christmas, Babe arrived. On paper, she fit our bill. She met all the items on our checklist perfectly! She was hypoallergenic, would not shed, was a manageable medium size, and had a gentle nature. Beyond her flawless pedigree paperwork, Babe helped us discover just how “special” a dog can be if accepted with an open and loving heart.
Today, our family would fail in counting the number of ways Babe has improved our lives. She is intuitive to each one of our unique personalities. She knows when we are having a bad day, when we just need to get outside and run, and when to summon us to our son’s seizures. She loves us unconditionally. Babe even knows how to communicate with us in her own special way. She challenges us to get up and move – insisting on her daily dose of exercise and games. She is a real member of the family, a genuine loving soul, and the reason we wake up with smiles. The joy that she adds is noticed. If your family is anything like ours, you will not regret the decision to bring home a dog. We are so happy to have Babe. I am thankful to say that we now understand why dogs are known as man’s best friend!