How To Introduce Your Kids To Your New Dog
Your kids have been asking you for months, and you finally gave in. You decided to buy your first family dog. It’s a big decision, especially if your family has never had a pet to take care of. Before you bring your new dog home to meet your family, it’s important to decide how you plan to introduce your kids to the new pet. The following tips will help you prepare for the introduction, and will also help you develop a general game plan for living with your new four-legged family member.
Make Sure The Dog You Choose Has Been Around Children Before
When picking the right dog for your family, it’s important to find one that you can be sure will be comfortable around your children. Children—especially if they are under the age of 5—can be loud and a little rambunctious around pets. If you’re saving a dog from a shelter, you should ask about the behavioral history of the dog you are considering taking home with you. Most shelters do their best to provide as much information about the dog’s history as possible. It will take a bit of time for your new dog to become comfortable with new surroundings in general, but if you find out a dog has had problems being around children in the past, you might consider looking for a different dog that will mesh more easily with your family.
If you’re buying a puppy, you obviously won’t be able to ask as many questions about behavior as you can with older dogs, but you can look for a dog within a breed that is known to be family-friendly. For a few family-friendly breed recommendations, click here.
Talk To Your Children About The Responsibilities That Come With Having a Dog
Kids need to know that pets are not toys. Before you introduce your children to the new family dog, you should spend time teaching them about the responsibilities associated with pet ownership. Teach your younger children that dogs are not like stuffed animals, and can’t be roughly handled. Teach your older children about doggie chores, like feeding them, cleaning up after them in the yard, bathing them, and walking them.
Supervise The Interaction
When the big day finally arrives and you are ready to introduce your new pet to your family, make sure you are intentional about supervising the interaction. Your children will likely be very excited, and so will your dog. To avoid accidents or play that is too rough, you should be involved with family playtime with the dog, especially if you brought home a new puppy. During this time, teach your older children how to respect your new dog. Teach your younger children how to pet nicely, and help them understand what actions might scare the dog.
If you are introducing a puppy or dog to a newborn, take a look at this article. It offers great tips on initial baby/dog interaction.
Allow For Rest Time
The first few days your dog spends with you and your family can be a little overwhelming for them. Remember: everything and everyone in your home is new to your dog. Your new dog needs to have a healthy balance of playtime and rest time. Your children also need to be aware of the importance of this balance. They will likely want to spend a lot of time with your new puppy or dog, so take time to help them understand that dogs need naps and quiet time too.
If you have a baby in your home, dog experts recommend you establish boundaries for your dog. You should condition your dog to recognize an invisible barrier in front of the door to the baby nursery. Teach your dog that he or she is not allowed to cross the barrier without your permission. This will help ensure that no unwanted or unsupervised baby/dog interactions occur while your dog is exploring your home. You can also establish similar boundaries for other rooms or areas in your house if desired.
Reward Your Dog
During the introduction process, your dog deserves to be rewarded for good behavior. Taking time to encourage calm behavior and obedience early on will save you a lot of headaches down the road. It can be easy to focus primarily on your children during this process, but try not to forget about your dog. They also need attention and praise from you.
Let Your Children Help You Train
As you begin to train your new dog, consider involving your older children in the process. Not only does it help reinforce the idea that with a new dog comes responsibilities, but it will also help teach the dog that your children are higher than they are in the social hierarchy of your family. You should work with your children on training your dog to practice good behavior. Help them teach your dog to take treats gently from hands, walk without pulling, refrain from jumping, and other “good behavior” practices.
The Safety of Your Children Comes First
Deciding to bring home a dog for your family is an exciting step to take. When it comes down to it though, it’s essential that you remember the safety of your children comes first. If your introduction doesn’t go well and your dog and children are having a hard time getting along (to the point where their safety is in jeopardy), you may need to consider finding an alternative home for the pet. Before doing so however, you should try to take your dog to obedience classes or a specialist to see if the problems can be resolved. Shelters across the country are overloaded with pets that have no homes, so avoid giving up your dog if possible.