Welcoming a puppy into your home is an exciting time, especially for children. The experience of owning a dog can also help children become more empathetic and responsible, as well as providing them with many joyful memories.
For your child and dog to become best friends, they need to get off on the right foot, as a bad first impression can dictate their future relationship. To help them bond and accept each other, you’ll need to put boundaries in place for both to follow. Here are six steps to take when introducing a new puppy to your child.
Provide the pup with a safe space
Before the dog arrives, dedicate a safe space for them to use if feeling overwhelmed by the child’s presence. Creating a den with a dog bed and blankets may suffice, but a crate or kennel is often preferable.
However, you’ll need to follow a gradual crate training process so that using it doesn’t feel like a punishment. Also, make it as comforting and enticing as possible by placing blankets, toys, a bed, water, and food inside.
An outdoor kennel is a great choice for dogs who love spending time outdoors. The kennel retailer Benchmark Kennels have a range of insulated, sheltered, and spacious kennels for sale that you can customise to suit your dog’s shape, size, and personality.
Whenever the dog uses the den, ensure the child doesn’t disturb them to avoid causing stress.
Before the introduction
Prior to introducing the pup to your child, allow them to explore and get to know the house first, rather than bombarding them with everything at once.
For the greeting, choose a space with enough room for your dog to leave the situation if they become overwhelmed. Hosting the introduction in a garden can help the dog feel less constrained.
Bring the child into the area when your dog appears content. It may be helpful to keep the dog on a leash initially if you’re unsure how they’ll react.
Create a calming atmosphere
It’s only natural for your child to be excited about meeting the pup, but ensure they know not to make any sudden movements or loud noises. If the dog feels scared, they may become defensive and aggressive.
Avoid using toys and treats to get the dog’s attention as this can over-stimulate them, causing them to be too rough with the child.
If the child or dog is too excited, take them elsewhere to calm down away from the other.
Teach the child how to approach the puppy
Inform your little one of how to approach the pooch calmly, such as by speaking quietly and softly.
Tell the child to sit by the side of the dog, leaving enough room for the pup to decide whether to approach the child. Don’t force the interaction, though, as it needs to be on the pup’s terms so that they don’t feel trapped. It can help to let the dog smell the child first to learn their scent.
If the pup is happy to be stroked, show the child how to pet them gently. The dog may react aggressively if the child strokes them too hard, accidentally pulls their fur or steps on their tail. Focus on patting the dog’s head and neck rather than sensitive areas such as the ears, tail, paws, and tummy.
Monitor your dog’s behaviour
Keep an eye on your dog’s expressions and body language to see how they’re responding. If your dog is overly excitable, scared, or angry, you may need to remove your child from the situation in case the pup acts out.
Dog behaviour to look out for includes:
- showing teeth
- fast tail wags
- long stares and hard eyes
- raised hair
- wrinkled nose
- ears pointed back and down
- curled lips
- standing with a stiffened body posture
- placing their weight forward
If your dog is calm, reward them with a treat to encourage them to behave well in the future and associate the youngster with positivity.
After the initial meeting
Following the introduction, keep the child busy with another task to allow the dog to settle into the home.
While the child isn’t present, introduce the pup to kid toys and train them to leave the items, using commands and redirect them to dog toys.
Preparing for the greeting and following a gradual process will help your dog and child develop a loving and trusting relationship. However, never leave them together unsupervised as canines can sometimes be unpredictable.