As we discussed the benefits of dogs for children in our previous blog post ‘Best dog breeds for children’, we fully believe that a family is complete with a dog.
But after we make a decision about breed, the next big step is prepare our children for the change and determine how best to introduce our new member into the family.
This is no problem for bigger children, as we can set the rules and agree on plans. But what about toddlers?
This is the hardest age group, as toddlers need a lot of attention. However, I believe that this is the ideal age to have a first dog, as the bonds that can form between a small child and a small dog are once in a lifetime.
Children and puppies have a lot in common; they are impatient, intense and sometimes unpredictable. That is why it is so important to supervise those first encounters between your child and the puppy and to manage carefully and with patience.
Toddlers may tend to treat the puppy as a stuffed toy by pulling its ears and fur, poking its eyes, stepping on its tail or sitting on it. A frightened puppy may instinctively bite or claw to defend itself. To avoid such a catfight, here are some rules and tips that are worth following to make the introduction of the new puppy easier and quicker.
– Being present:
You should always be present! You can stay in the background, but supervise and be ready to step in if needed.
– Teaching rules:
We need to teach the basic rules to our children, and how to act with a dog. How to touch and pat a dog, and of course how not to treat it, like not smacking, pulling ears, fur, poking eyes, stepping on its tail or leg, or sitting on the dog and so on. And of course, explain to your children not to disturb the dog while sleeping, chewing or eating.
– Limits for children:
We need to explain to toddlers and young children that puppies are living and feeling animals, not stuffed toys. We need to teach them limits about when to stop poking them and when to leave them alone.
– Canine body language:
Teach your child when he should stop playing with the dog by learning to identify signs of dominance from the puppy.
– Safe place to retreat for the puppy:
Everyone needs a private place, and so too does the puppy. We need to provide him with a place where children can’t bother him. Of course, for toddlers we need to supervise them, as they are too young to understand.
– Puppy talk:
We need to ask children to keep their voices down, as a puppy can be frightened by screams or high voices. We can explain that puppies can get frightened of scary sounds like children.
– Encourage your child to help you take care of the dog:
Having a pet is a wonderful way to teach your child responsibility. Depending on the age of your child, you can include him on your walks with the dog or he can help feed him or clean up after him. They can even take part in the training in the dog school.
But if we complete this introduction phase with care and supervising, we help to establish the basis for a magical friendship, as nothing compares to the bond between a child and a dog.
And there is one more important thing:
– Do not pet a dog you don’t know!
Once your children are ‘dog-savvy’ and not afraid of dogs, be sure to teach them not to touch dogs they don’t know, and always to ask for permission before interacting with someone else’s dog. They may love animals and not be scared by them, but you should explain that not all dogs are like the one at home!