Welcoming home a new puppy is a family affair! Here are a few important things to know about introducing your kids to the new member of the family.
Children and puppies have so many similarities! They are both energetic and ready for fun but that also means there are still things to learn about their newfound friendship. Of course, little kids can’t help being excited about the new puppy, and your puppy is excited about their new playmate. So to set them off to a successful start, learn how to become your child’s guide to building a lasting and deep bond with your family puppy!
You Train Your Puppy First!
Children want and should be involved in your puppy’s training but not at the very start. Imagine this scenario: you’re trying to get your puppy’s attention but all they want is to follow your child who probably looks like a lot of fun! That doesn’t work out so well if you’re trying to get your puppy to focus on learning their basic obedience commands.
Instead, take a few days to introduce some of the basic commands to your puppy without your kids. Establish the foundation first, giving your puppy time to make the associations between the words, the action, and being rewarding with food. After your puppy has this initial training underway, you can ask your kids to get involved!
Then, work with your children, teaching them the commands, and how to reward the puppy for performing the correct behaviors. Sure, your puppy won’t be fully trained at this point, but at least this way, you mitigate the potential of confusion with commands.
Do’s and Don’ts!
How do you know what are okay activities and what are not? Let’s go through a list of Dos and Don’ts for interactions between your kids and the new puppy!
1. Don’t leave your puppy alone with small children!
Here’s the thing: small children, under the age of 13, and puppies should always be monitored, period. They can get into all sorts of things they aren’t supposed to or potentially get hurt. Throw a puppy into the mix and the potential risk increases exponentially. And your children will probably not be equipped yet to manage the puppy on their own.
Do monitor them when they are playing together! Take a moment to explain to your kids that puppies and dogs, in general, don’t understand affection the way that people do. Hugs around the chest and neck, being picked up, having their faces mushed, while your kids might want to do this because they love the puppy, it can actually be overwhelming and might make your puppy apprehensive of being handled.
One of the most important guidelines to teach your child is to not tug on your puppy’s ears, paws, or tail. These are very sensitive and can be painful for your puppy if they are pulled on. Show your kids how to gently pet the puppy or the right way to pick them up. This will help your puppy feel more comfortable around your children and boost their trust in them as part of the family!
2. Don’t allow your children to disrupt or surprise the puppy, especially if they are sleeping or engaging in calm play with a toy or bone. Puppies are still creating associations in the first few months of their life. Being startled by your kids might create a negative experience that may trigger your puppy to react, whether it’s barking or even nipping if it happens again, even if by accident.
Do explain that calmly approaching the puppy is best. If they want to get the puppy’s attention, they can call their name and engage the puppy with a toy or do some training routines with treats! This will help your puppy establish that being approached or called by your kids, means they will be receiving positive affection, fun activity, and rewards.
3. Don’t let your child play with the puppy using their hands. The reason for this is young puppies chew and nip! It’s just normal puppy behavior to explore things with their mouths but allowing your kids to let the puppy play with their hands can encourage your puppy to think it’s okay to go after hands as a toy. If this continues, your puppy can carry on this pesky habit into maturity and it is much harder to correct later on.
Do provide your children, especially if you have a young child under the age of 4, a good alternative if they simply just want to hug the puppy and they can’t contain it! A stuffed animal that looks like a puppy can serve as a way to show your younger child how to pet, hold, and handle the puppy in a gentle manner before they do so on your real puppy!
4. Don’t let your kids run around with the puppy. As much as they may want to play chase with the puppy, when your kid runs, it’s like an invitation for play which can result in some unwanted nipping. Again, this is a totally normal puppy behavior and not aggression at all. However, if you allow it to continue, it can become a regular and troublesome habit if your puppy thinks any time someone goes by them is playtime.
Do teach your kids to be a tree! What we mean by this is, give your kids the task of going still if the puppy comes after them. Tell your kids to “fold in their limbs” literally anything the puppy can nip at. In doing so, they are removing the excitement and your puppy will lose interest in playing. However, if that doesn’t work, teach your kids to call for you and not try to handle the puppy themselves.
Note: Not all puppies are the same! What we mentioned earlier aren’t hard and fast rules but rather general information we’ve gathered from working with thousands of puppies over the years!
The interactions between your puppy and kids relate back to your puppy’s individual tolerance level which is affected by the breed, temperament, age, and physical size of your puppy! For example breeds like Huskies or German Shepherds are more active which may make them less tolerant of being held very long. Whereas an easy-going and relaxed breed like a Golden Retriever wouldn’t mind a long hug! But again, as your puppy grows up and matures, their tolerance level to physical affection can also change! This is something only you will be able to determine for your individual puppy!
Just want to build a respectful relationship and close bond between child and dane!!