Introducing a Dog to Children

Nothing can compare to the joy that lights up a child's face upon seeing a dog. For many children, a dog is more than just a pet - he is a companion, a best friend to share life's adventures with. If you want your children to benefit from the experience of owning and caring for a pet, a dog can be a great choice. Not all dogs are compatible with children, however, and there are some precautions you may need to take to ensure the safety of both your children and your new pet.

The way you first introduce your new dog to your children can have a great impact on their future interaction - if the children are overly excited and the dog becomes frightened, he may develop an anxiety that prevents him from interacting normally with your family. If you want to foster a healthy companionship between your new dog and your children, start off the relationship right by following these tips for a safe introduction.

Before You Introduce the Dog

Before you even bring your new dog home, you should speak to your children about the responsibility of owning a pet and lay out a few ground rules. Discuss with your children who will feed the dog, where the dog will sleep and who will take him for walks. While your dog may bond with your children to the point where he sleeps in their beds at night, it is still important to provide your dog with his own space such as a crate or dog bed.

You should also think about enrolling your dog in obedience classes. If you are worried about the dog being too excitable to introduce to your children right away, see that he goes through several of these classes before you bring him home. The sooner you start training your dog, the easier it will be to correct unwanted behaviors. You may also want to include your children in the training process, teaching them how to reward the dog when he behaves appropriately and how to discipline him and correct unwanted behaviours.

Making the Introductions!

Just before you bring your dog into the room, spend a few minutes teaching your children about the proper way to behave around the dog. Explain to your kids that it is good to be excited about their new pet, but showing too much of that excitement could scare the dog. Instruct your children to keep their voices soft, to remain calm and to approach the dog slowly, giving him a chance to get used to their scent before they try to pet him.

To create a positive experience for both the dog and your children, consider giving each child a small treat to offer the dog. This will help send a positive message to your dog about interacting with your children and your kids will love the attention of the dog as it searches for the treat.

Your main role during these introductions should be supervisory. Keep a close eye on both your children and your dog, watching for signs of trouble. If your new dog is large or very excited, you may need to restrain him from jumping on your children. Keep a firm grasp on his collar, just behind his head, and try to keep him seated while allowing your children to pet him.

In the event that your dog becomes overly excited, begins to act fearful or shows signs of aggression, separate him from your children and give him time to calm down. During this separation, remind your children about the rules for proper behavior and try the introduction again once your dog is calm. If you take the time to ensure that your dog is well-trained and your children are prepared, introducing your new dog to your kids should be a fun and positive experience for everyone.

By starting things off right with a safe and enjoyable introduction, you can ensure that your children will enjoy a long, healthy relationship with their new best friend.