We all want our puppies to be at their best in any situation, and this includes behaving well with children - this means no barking, nipping or wrestling. The challenge is that children can be loud and may startle a puppy by moving around him quickly. Some puppies may react to this aggressively, or may think that the child is a littermate and, as a result, may play roughly.
Teaching children what behavior is acceptable around puppies goes a long way to ensuring that your puppy will respond in kind, but when children are very young they may not understand that their actions can be irritating or scary to a puppy. The answer is to socialize your puppy with children slowly, and always while under supervision. Childproofing your puppy is also a good idea, but should not replace supervision.
Using games such as "Shout it out," "How does that grab you?" or "How about a hug?" will educate your puppy and teach you how he is likely to respond in certain situations. If at any time during training you have questions or concerns, ask your veterinarian to recommend a training or behavior professional who can help.
Shout it out
Some puppies may be confused or frightened by a child's natural tones. To help your puppy feel more comfortable around different tones and volumes get him used to abrupt noises. Stand a few feet away from your puppy, and suddenly say, "Pup!" Follow this immediately with warm praise. Encourage your puppy to come to you, and reward him with a treat. When your puppy seems unruffled by abrupt noises raise the volume slightly. Work up to yelling, "Pup!" Make this a game that always ends with warm praise and petting. Do not use an angry voice. Practice instead with a variety of volumes and tones. Have fun. If your puppy won't come to you, or looks upset, speak to him in a softer voice and praise him with more enthusiasm. Make a recording of children having noisy fun and play it daily when your puppy is eating. Start softly, and, over a period of days increase the volume a bit at a time. Soon your puppy will wag his tail when he hears children playing loudly.
How does that grab you?
Children may not mean to startle your puppy when they grab at him, and may be surprised if he responds aggressively. One way to help prevent this scenario is to educate children on how to treat puppies, and to get your puppy used to any eventuality, including being grabbed at. As you pet your puppy, gently grab hold of some skin and wiggle it. Praise him, give him a treat, then release and praise some more. When he accepts this happily, repeat the action a little bit faster and more firmly, but not harshly. This should never be painful. If it is done playfully, with praise and treats, your puppy will soon associate this type of grabbing with fun.
How about a hug?
Children love to hug puppies. This should be discouraged, but just in case, prepare your puppy. While you are praising your pup, give him a quick, gentle hug and then release. Praise him again and give him a treat. Over a few days, as your puppy comes to accept the hug, slowly hold for longer periods. Always release your puppy before he gets frightened or uncomfortable. Work up to a twenty to thirty second hug, followed by lots of praise. Don't rush him. The idea is to make this fun.
Slowly socializing your puppy with children will help things to go as smoothly as possible. Again, always supervise your puppy - childproofing him is not a substitute but it may help your puppy to feel more comfortable when spending time with children.