Children & Dogs

Children & Dogs

Well, as they say, “it’s complicated” but not impossible.

The presence of small children in the home makes an adoption through a rescue group more challenging. In fact, we normally recommend families wait until their children reach the age of 7 before they consider adopting a golden retriever, particularly if you have never owned a large sporting dog.

We do consider applicants with children on a case-by-case basis especially when the parents have a history of owning a large dog. If the parents have never owned a large dog we are going to review your application very carefully and normally recommend you wait until your children are older before bringing a large dog into your family.

Why are we so careful about adopting a golden retriever to homes with young children? One of the most common sources of dogs turned into us is from families with young children. Many parents purchase a golden for their children believing it’s the perfect family dog they see in movies. What they don’t count on is that cute little puppy growing into an 80-pound adolescent dog in just a couple of years. Unless considerable time is spent on obedience training and meeting the exercise and attention needs of a young golden, they become an unwelcome family member.  Often they are knocking over the children and creating havoc in the household, only to be sadly given up as being “too much to handle”.Golden Retriever

Many people think that adding a dog to their family with children is a way to achieve that perfect vision of what an American family should be. Realize that adding a dog is like adding another child to your family! We often see where one parent really wants the dog and another may not. DO NOT get a dog unless all the adults in the household whole-heartedly want to care for a large dog. Don’t ever expect your children to play a primary role in caring for the dog, it just doesn’t happen. A child may beg for a dog today, but often that enthusiasm doesn’t continue as they age and become more interested in other things. And finally, if “Mom” (the parent who has a greater workload in managing home and children) doesn’t want a dog – don’t get one. “Mom” usually ends up supervising and caring for the dog.

Some families deal with a hard-to-handle dog by making them an outside dog. Golden retrievers do poorly as permanent outside dogs. They are prone to allergies, thunderstorm anxiety, digging out and escaping, along with other behavioral problems. Goldens are very “Velcro” dogs by nature and do not do well separated from their human family. It is cruel to make any dog live alone outside. Please do not get a dog of any breed if you intend to make it live outside! This defeats the main purpose of getting a dog, for companionship.

Our safety concerns regarding adopting a golden into a family with young children:

  • Children have been known to leave doors open or unlatched, presenting an opportunity for the dog to escape, where it can be hit by a car, lost, or stolen. This happens all the time.
  • Often children want to take an active role in walking the dog, but a golden may be too strong for a child to walk on a leash unless an adult is assisting. This can result in injury to the child or the dog should it get loose.
  • Young children can play rough with dogs, pulling tails and ears, which increases the probability of a dog bite. Even the best of dogs can get tired of being pulled and jumped on.
  • Children left unsupervised around any pet can quickly make a wrong choice when it comes to their interactions. Children often don’t understand the “signals” a dog may be sending to “back off” and as such, the situation can quickly escalate.
  • Just as children can’t be expected to understand a dog’s language, dogs are not “little people.” They are driven by instincts, and they have a different language. Some dogs have temperaments better suited than others for tolerating boisterous and active young children.

Our considerations regarding adopting a golden into a family with young children:

  • We carefully consider the background of the dog we adopt to families with children. Some dogs come in as strays or from a shelter and we don’t know their full background. We prefer to adopt dogs to families with children that are known to be good with them as they were either turned in by families with children, or their foster home experience strongly indicates they will be good with children.
  • Although goldens have a reputation for being very child-friendly and many fit that status, some may not. When we rescue a golden, the former owners (if we are lucky enough to speak to them) are not always forthcoming about the dog’s issues for fear we might not take their dog into our program. In fact, thousands of animals are euthanized every year, often for doing something that comes very naturally to them – protecting themselves. GRRMF does not want to put the safety of family members, or one of our rescue dogs, at risk for such a situation.senior golden wearing straw hat
  • If you are approved for adoption, you may have to wait a bit for a child-friendly dog to be matched with your family. We take care in screening both family and golden for the best possible match. We want our families and goldens to experience a lifetime of safe, happy and loving memories together.
  • We strongly recommend that you fence in at least a portion of your yard if you have not already done so, creating a safe play area for both dog and child. (In fact, for homes with children, we do require a fenced yard.) Please read our web page on “Fences” for more information on recommended fence types and other safety tips.

Given all these factors, you can probably appreciate our desire to screen families with children very carefully before we place a golden in their home, and in turn, screen the golden we place with them very carefully. No one wants a bad situation for either the family or the dog.

If you have any questions about our policies involving adoptions to families with children, please email us at

If you are thinking at all about getting a puppy:

  • Please read our “Puppy Facts” page.
  • Please visit the Golden Retriever Club of America’s website information on how to select a puppy and a reputable breeder.
  • Please visit the Mid-Florida Golden Retriever Club list of breeders through a puppy referral service.

- Want To Adopt -

If you are writing us about adopting a dog and do not have an adoption application on file with us, use this link to review our policies and process and complete an application.

If you have completed our adoption application, and/or have another inquiry, please use the email link to contact us.

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