How to Introduce Your Dog to New Family Members (Part 3) - Doggy Brace

How to Introduce Your Dog to New Family Members (Part 3!)

introducing dogs to kids

Here it is, part 3! In part one, we went over introducing your dog to cats and smaller animals, such as rats, ferrets, and more. In part two, we talked about introducing your dog to birds and other dogs! Now, in our final part of this series, we’ll go over how to introduce your dog to kids! 

The most important thing you need to know is that all dogs will react to strangers differently. Some will know your newborn is a part of the family right away, while others will shy away from them — especially if your baby is crying. 

Toddlers are another story. Your dog may love humans and see them as friends, but you have to make sure your toddler knows how to handle a dog. Your dog may react negatively if their tail is pulled, if they’re hit, or if the toddler plays with them a little too roughly. 

Before you introduce them, make sure everyone is calm and as relaxed as possible. This will make it much easier for your dog to have a happy introduction. 

Introducing Your Dog to Babies (0-2 years)

Newborns won’t do too much to the dog. Once they get older, they’ll become more mobile and curious. It’s hard to teach newborns how to politely interact with animals, especially since a newborn is still learning how to control their hands and feet. 

At this stage, training your dog to be gentle and slow around the baby is your best bet. You’ll have to teach them that your baby isn’t ready to play or cuddle with them quite yet. Give them a lot of love and attention so they don’t feel left out and a lot of praise to help reinforce positive interactions and behaviors. 

When your baby is getting mobile, you’ll have to gently reinforce to them that the dog is not a thing to be grabbed. 

As time goes on, both your baby and your dog will become friends. Just remember that it takes time and a lot of patience. 

Introducing Your Dog to Kids (Ages 2+)

If the kid is older, then you have to make sure that they know a dog is not a toy. They are not there to entertain — dogs are a beloved family member and should be treated with kindness and respect. 

Empathy isn’t easy for younger children, so we recommend positive reinforcement and gentle encouragement when your dog and kid interact well. Don’t yell at either of them, as they both won’t immediately know what they did wrong. Remember too, a frustrated growl from your dog isn’t always aggressive. It is most likely just a warning to you and the kid to stop messing with them. If this happens, call the kid over and give your dog some space. 

On top of that, try setting ground rules. 

Here are some to consider:

  • Never disturb dogs while they’re in their crates
  • Don’t bother them when they’re eating or sleeping
  • Never pull their ears, tails, or other body parts
  • Don’t hug them
  • Don’t tease them 
  • Never bother them while they’re chewing a bone or chew toy
  • Let them come to you and do not chase after them!

Build Your Dog’s Love of Children

If your dog doesn’t have an instant connection with kids, don’t worry. They can learn to love them in time. 

The first step is to expose your dog to children while creating positive associations with them. If your dog doesn’t mind kids, it’s easy to build that up to love. Simply reward your dog with wonderful things like treats, toys, and games when children are around. 

You have more work ahead of you if your dog is apprehensive around kids. You will need to desensitize and counter condition your dog. This basically means flipping their negative attitude into a positive one. It can be done, it just takes a lot of time, training, and slow exposure to their negative triggers. 

You can take your dog to a dog park that is near a popular children’s park, or you can walk them around the neighborhood to get used to the area and the people there. If there is a kid you trust — such as your own or a friend’s — then slowly introduce them with short visits. 

For help with this technique, don’t hesitate to seek the advice of a dog trainer or animal behaviorist.

The biggest thing is to be patient. Kids can be very scary to dogs, and dogs can be very scary to kids. Let them progress at their own pace and offer a ton of praise. A friendship will blossom before you know it!