Is there anything more exciting than a new fur baby? Whether it is a puppy or an older canine, the excitement is the same. New dogs, and dogs in general, bring endless joy and entertainment for years to come. However, introducing a new pup to a child requires careful supervision and patience. Since children are, well, children, it’s important to ensure the safety and happiness of both the child and the dog. Below are tips to follow when introducing your children to a new dog.
How to Introduce a New Canine to a Child
Children are grab-y. And depending on the age of your children and their exposure to animals, they might not understand a dog’s boundaries and how dogs feel pain. Your children may not know to give a dog space when they eat, or that it hurts when you pull on a dog’s ears. It’s important to really consider all the things that could go wrong, and prevent those things from happening.
Kids are nothing short of precious, and a proper introduction and integration will protect them from having a traumatic experience. It will also ensure that your animal is welcomed into a loving home that knows how to care for him or her.
Teach the Child to Interact With the Dog
Teach the child how to properly interact with the dog by showing them how to pet the dog gently and avoid pulling on their fur or tail. Explain that they should not approach the dog when it is eating, sleeping, or chewing on a toy.
The basics on approaching a dog should come first. Show your child how to do this while talking them through it. Then, within close proximity, have your child practice approaching the dog under your supervision. Kids (and most humans in general) learn best by example. Take their hand and show them how to gently pet an animal. Explain to the child what they should not do and why. Really take your time here. And if you yourself need a refresher on the dos and don’ts, read this.
Supervise the Introduction
The first introduction should be closely supervised to ensure the safety of both the child and the dog. Keep the dog on a leash and hold the leash while allowing the child to approach the dog slowly and calmly. Remind the child of the things you just taught them previously about approaching an animal. Gently coach your kid while they are doing this.
Encourage Positive Interactions
Encourage positive interactions between the child and the pup by rewarding both for good behavior. This can include giving treats to the doggo for allowing the child to pet them and praising the child for using gentle and appropriate interactions with the dog.
By creating a positive reward system for both, you are sweetening the relationship between the child and dog right off the bat. At first, both the dog and the child will want to be kind to one another because they get treats if they do. Over time, though, they will create a relationship to one another built on highly positive experiences. This builds trust and loyalty.
Give the Dog a Safe Space
Provide the dog with a safe space, such as a crate or a designated room, where they can go to retreat if they feel overwhelmed or need a break from interactions with the child. Crate training a dog is the very best way to ensure safety for everyone in the family.
Crates and personal areas for the dog will make him or her feel safe and protected. And just like children, dogs need a time out space where they can gather themselves and balance out their emotions and energy. This is often referred to as a “recovery” zone, and it gives everyone a break and a moment to gather themselves.
If you aren’t sure how to crate train, we recommend you read this fantastic blog written by none other than Chewy.
Set boundaries for both the child and the doggo to ensure everyone’s safety. For example, establish rules about where your new family member is allowed to go in the house, and teach the child not to bother the dog when they are resting. Are you a family that allows dogs on the couch? In the bed? In the front seat of the car? Off leash?
These are all specifics that you will need to iron out. Dogs, kids, and adults all benefit from healthy and concrete boundaries. Boundaries let dogs and people know what to expect and how to stay in the lines.
And Finally, Be patient
Introducing a new dog to a child can take time, so be patient and allow the child and the dog to get to know each other gradually over time. With patience and positive reinforcement, the child and the dog can develop a strong and loving bond.