Introducing a new dog to children is an idea that some people can find intimidating. Whilst in most cases children and dogs typically get along just fine, it is important to ensure that there is a proper introduction phase so that they both feel comfortable and safe around each other.
Continue reading to discover an array of helpful tips and tricks that will make introducing your new dog to children a safe and enjoyable experience.
Preparing Your Children
Before bringing the dog home, you should set up some basic ground rules with your child to make sure that they do not startle the dog.
Inform them that they should respect the dog’s personal space – a child excitedly rushing towards it can be a terrifying experience for a dog not used to children! Instead, talk them through acting calmly around the new arrival, letting the dog get used to them slowly.
Also discuss with your children appropriate behaviour with the dog, letting them know that is not acceptable to pet too aggressively or to hug them. Whilst the no hugging rule may sound odd, even slightly cruel, dogs really do not enjoy being hugged- especially when they are not used to someone. Instead, advise your children to gently pet the dog on his back or under his chin until they become completely familiarized with each other.
It is in the best interests of your children, your dog and yourself to make sure that there are firm rules in place, and that these are stuck to. This will help your dog and children to get used to each other in a calm and helpful environment.
Preparing the Pup
While getting your child ready to meet the dog is essential, prepping your dog for the introduction is equally necessary.
It is important that you only allow your dog around the child when they are in a calm state of mind whilst they get to know each other. Dogs who are excited or aroused have the tendency to act on their impulses, which doesn’t promise a good outcome.
Make sure that you have a ‘safe area’ that your puppy can retreat to if he needs to get away- somewhere your children aren’t allowed to go.
If your child is nervous about meeting the dog, prepare your puppy by keeping him on a leash. If he invades the child’s personal space or frightens them in any way, give the leash a tug to make sure that the dog stays closer to your rather than the child.
The Initial Introduction
Living with children should not be traumatizing for your dog and, likewise, living with a dog should not be traumatizing for your children.
The initial introduction should be kept simple – free from toys, food and anything else that may excite or distract the dog. Allow the dog to sniff around the child at first but do not allow the child to touch them just yet. At this point your aim is just to get your dog used to your child’s scent and presence.
Once an hour or so has passed, allow your child to gently pet the dog under the chin. Show the dog that the child is a friend part of the ‘pack’ by gently hugging your child. When it appears that your dog is warming up to the child, allow them to hand the pup a small treat. This helps to reassure both your child that the dog that the other is safe and friendly.
The best way to avoid potential conflict between your dog and the child is by supervising every interaction that they have together at first. Even if your dog appears to be gentle and friendly right away, it is still crucial to monitor their interaction as it only takes a few seconds for things to take a bad turn. Keep a close eye on on both your dog’s and your child’s actions. If things go awry, it will be easy for you to step in and prevent any possible bad experiences.
The Time-Out Method
The time-out method is an excellent behavioral technique for dogs who act out around children simply because they love their attention. If you notice that your dog tends to jump on the child or nibble on them for more attention, you will soon find that removing the attention all together will help teach them how to control their actions.
The moment they begin acting out, say “Time out!” or any other phrase that you pick. It doesn’t matter what your say, as long as you use it consistently.
Right after speaking the chosen phrase, immediately take your dog away from the child into a room that is free from toys, food and anything else that may excite them. Laundry rooms and bathrooms are great choices for this particular purpose. Leave them in there for about thirty seconds to a minute and then allow them back around the child. If they act out again, march them right back out of the room. It will not be long until they realise that acting out does not get them attention, and in fact leads to them being taken away from their playmates. With consistency and patience, it won’t be long before your dog is trained out of this attention seeking behaviour around your children.
Practice Makes Perfect
When teaching your dog anything new, practice makes perfect. The more that you work with them on controlling their impulses around kids, the better they will get. You should take time out of every day to practice polite behavior in a wide variety of different locations and situations to ensure they are well-adapted and able to cope with anything.
Unfortunately, there are times when dogs have difficulties adapting to children and become aggressive. This is most common in adult dogs who are introduced to children, which is why it is recommended to begin interaction as soon as possible and whilst they are still puppies.
Dogs that are aggressive should never be left alone with children, no matter what the circumstances may be. Potentially dangerous behaviours such as growling, lunging or snapping at the child should never be ignored, and professional help should be sought as soon as possible.
A reputable dog trainer or behavorist will have the skills, knowledge and experience that will be needed to help you modify or manage your dog’s aggression. Ask around your local community, specifically your veterinarian, for recommended professionals, and be sure that the expert that you choose to work with has extensive experience when it comes to treating aggressive dogs.
Whilst developing a friendship between your furry friend and children will not happen overnight, a little patience and consistency can ensure that your child and dog can live together safely and happily!