All Things Dog

Introducing Dogs and Children

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Guidelines for introducing dogs and children

Children should be encouraged to take part in activities with dogs that are appropriate to the child's age.

There are a few things new parents need to know and do before they bring a new baby into a household where a dog lives. Here are a few of those things.

Introducing new children into a house containing a dog

  • Ideally, the dog should have been socialized to children as a puppy.
  • The dog should be responsive to you and readily obey basic commands (e.g., "sit," "come," etc.)
  • Before the child arrives, you should modify the way you handle your pet by behaving more like a child. Handling should focus on your dog's ears, tail, paws, etc. Start by stroking and later with gentle pulling, just as a young child might do. The dog should be rewarded for accepting this contact. It will also be beneficial if other children can be encouraged to handle the dog while rewarding the dog with food or praise.
  • The dog should be taught not to snatch food or toys from a hand, but only to take these objects gently after being told to do so. Practicing with the help of other children when training is complete will be helpful, since it will teach the dog not to steal food or toys from young children.
  • Your routine with the dog should be modified in anticipation of the arrival of a new child. If the dog is used to spending all of its time with the owner, this should gradually be reduced so that no sudden reduction occurs when the child arrives.
  • As soon as the new baby arrives, your dog should be rewarded (with food or praise) when in its presence. That way he will come to associate the presence of the child with pleasure. Shutting the dog away or shouting at it whenever the baby appears may lead to the dog perceiving the child as a negative experience.
  • Young children should never be left alone with a dog. They have no concept of pain or suffering in others, and may treat the dog as if it was a toy.

Introducing new dogs into a household containing children

  • If you're considering an older dog, make sure it gets along with children before you say, "Yes, this is the dog for us." Some older dogs that are not used to children may respond in a fearful or threatening way, especially at mealtime and when the dog is playing with a toy.
  • If you choose a puppy, make sure that it is young enough to be socialized with children. It also helps if the pup has had positive experiences with children before.
  • Always make sure an adult is around to supervise when your child is with the dog.
  • Teach your child about the responsibilities of pet ownership. Kids need to learn that pets are not toys, and that they can feel pain if they're roughly handled.
  • Make sure the youngest child in your home is mature enough to understand that the dog is a living, breathing thing and needs to be respected. Since children reach this level of "maturity" at different ages, it's up to you, as the parent, to use your best judgment.
  • Children should be encouraged to take part in activities with dogs that are appropriate to the child's age. For example, a four-year-old child should not be solely responsible for a dog during a walk, but can assist their parent in various dog-related activities, like getting the dog's leash before a walk.
  • When your child is old enough, he/she should be encouraged to train the dog in appropriate obedience activities, such as sitting and coming when called. These activities help teach your dog that children are higher in the social hierarchy than dogs are.

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