Dogs and Children

Who could be better at keeping pace with a wonderfully energetic young dog than an equally energetic young human? Growing up together, spending part of every day playing and hugging, keeping each other company, offering each other comfort in hard times, a friendship can be made that is remembered for a lifetime.

Preparing for New Arrival:
If you and your family don’t have a dog, then chances are your children haven’t had much exposure to dogs. That means they won’t have much idea about what dogs do and don’t like. They might also be a bit tentative and nervous around this hairy thing that pants and barks and seems almost as big as they are. Your children will need to be well prepared for the arrival of your new family member, so that they can be confident and careful dog lovers. Give them as much time as they need to get used to your dog.

They must learn how to behave around a dog, and the way to handle one properly, particularly if it’s a pup. “Parents must teach their children how to carry a puppy and how to approach a puppy,” says Dr. Lalonde. “Otherwise, aggression problems in the dog might develop.

A dog isn’t a toy, children need to be gentle, and not too rowdy to begin with, until your dog is used to them and they are used to your dog.

Always make sure there’s an adult around to supervise whenever your new dog and the kids get together, advises Dr. Hunthausen. You’ll then be assured of everyone’s safety and enjoyment, until you are confident that they are all consistently doing the right thing.

Training: A Family Thing
Of course, it’s not just the kids that need to learn how to behave. Your new dog should also be taken lessons. Find a training school that will let children take part, or if they are too young, at least where they’ll be allowed to watch, suggests Bonhower. “Kids love it if they can tell a dog what to do and she does it,” she says.

There are other benefits to making training a family affair, explains Dr. Lalonde. “While there’s only one person holding the leash, the other family members are looking on,” se says.

There are other benefits to making training a family affair, explains Dr. Lalonde. “While there’s only one person holding the leash, the other family members are looking on,” she says.

“This way everyone learns the same commands, which provides the consistency the dog needs.”

Young Pups:
The line between canine and human can occasionally become blurred for young puppies. “Sometimes, kids act more like puppies than humans,” explains Bonhower. “Running around and screaming – these things can get the puppy excited. If one of her siblings were playing in that way, the puppy would probably nip at him.”

Explain to your children that when they play rough, the puppy can lose control in its eagerness to join in. “If this happens with your kids teach them to squeal like a puppy, even if the nip didn’t hurt much. This will teach the new pup bite inhibition.” And the children are less likely to be unintentionally hurt.

It’s best to encourage your children to play quieter games with the puppy, and to confine her when the children are playing hard.

Adult Dogs:
What about adult dogs around children, especially those dogs from uncertain background?

“Behaviorally, there’s a risk when you don’t know a dogs history,” says Dr. Hunthausen.

“Adopting a shelter dog is a courageous thing to do, since you can never be entirely sure what sort of animal you’re dealing with.”

He advises that you keep your new dog on a leash whenever she’s around children. Make sure she remains under control she exhibits diligence and kindness, you’ll likely end up with a terrific pet for the whole family.