Have a puppy or are considering one? Congratulations! Getting a new puppy is a very exciting time for everyone in your household, but certain steps should be taken to properly introduce children to their new furry family member. After all, you and I both know that children and puppies alike are notorious for being very excitable and not always thinking before acting.
They’re sure to become friends quickly, but you can help smooth the process (and prevent unnecessary aggression) by following these seven tips:
1. Teach patience
Staying patient is the golden rule that should be followed throughout your dog ownership. If your child is like most, chances are they’ll get very excited when they first see the new puppy and will want to pet/play with them right away. So it’s very important that you talk with them beforehand about staying patient and letting the puppy come to them first. Have your child stay still and reach out their hand slowly to the puppy.
2. Demonstrate how to pet the puppy
Show your child how to nicely pet the puppy, and be sure that they know not to pull on their ears, tail, paws, fur, etc. In fact, it’s a good idea to teach them not to touch any of the puppy’s more intimate areas in general (like the belly) unless the young dog shows that they’re cool with contact in those places. Again, patience is key. Take things slowly to find out where your puppy does and doesn’t like being petted, and be sure to include everyone in the family.
3. Stop if any aggression or dominance is shown
Talk to your child about dominance and teach them to stop what they’re doing (dogbreedinfo.com has a great list of dominant behaviors) and not yield to the puppy’s behaviors if they’re acting dominantly. And of course, stop play immediately and separate your child from the puppy as soon as any aggression is shown.
4. Keep toys and treats handy
You want your puppy to associate your child with good things. In fact, one of the easiest ways to get a head start on this is to have your kid give the dog a treat. This is only if the child and dog are behaving well, of course! Be sure your child knows how to feed the dog without getting nipped. Our dog happens to be exceptionally gentle around children.
Toys will help too. A gentle game of fetch with a toy will also help the child and puppy to bond. Even if the puppy doesn’t quite yet understand that the point of the game is to get the toy and bring it back, having your child show them will help bring the two of them closer together and build a foundation of trust.
5. Include your child in the training process
Your puppy should learn to respect both you and your child, so doesn’t it make sense to include your kid when it comes to training? Demonstrate commands with the puppy and then have your child practice them too. After all, it’s important that the whole family is on the same page when it comes to training and giving the puppy rules and boundaries. And it can’t be stressed enough — patience is key here too!
6. Have your child help care for the puppy
Going along with the above, it’s also a good idea to have your kid help with everyday care taking of the puppy. Bring them along on walks, for example, or have them do it themselves if they are old enough. If you have multiple children, it may be a good idea to rotate care taking chores like feeding, cleaning up after the dog in the yard, and giving medicines when necessary.
7. Don’t leave them unsupervised
This is crucial for child and puppy alike. When they are together, you (or another trusted adult) should always be present. It’s not that you don’t want them to have fun together, but just in case one of them starts playing too rough with the other you need to make sure that behavior comes to a quick stop.
Having a dog is a rite of passage for many children and it can help them grow up and learn. Some children feel more comfortable reading to a dog early on since the dog won’t judge them. In addition, the child can learn responsibility by helping to care for the dog, like taking care of the flea and tick preventative each month.
Naturally, your child is going to be more comfortable and at ease with you around. And if you happened to meet the puppy before your son or daughter did, the same will go for the little fur ball as well.
Bio: Nina blogs about all things dogs, and tries to help people cut through all the marketing hype. She’s always been a dog lover and has a passion for helping find solutions to problems. That’s how Dogs By Nina started – now it’s a hub for great information about dogs.