If your planning on adding a dog to your family, it’s important to induct them to your kids the right way in order to nurture a healthy and safe relationship.
Dogs can your child’s be most faithful friend, after all kids will more likely spend more time with them than you. Dogs offer your children companionship and giving them a sense of responsibility and security. Furthermore, because of their shorter life span, dogs help children to understand bereavement and come to terms with it.
As dogs are highly influenced by human behaviour and there are things that we need to be aware of when introducing a new puppy to the family. It is important to educate and for adults to demonstrate respectful, positive behaviour towards dogs. They should truly be family members, treated the same way by the whole family.
Here are some tips for fostering a positive relationship between kids and dogs:
- All interactions between children (especially young children) and a new dog should be supervised, for the safety of both pet and child. NEVER leave even the most trusted dog alone with a small baby or child. Hiring a dog sitter or a babysitter may help you have extra supervision as the dog and the child get acquainted.
- Make sure a crawling baby does not pull on a dog’s tail or ears.
- Children should be encouraged to stroke or scratch a dog under the chin or around the throat, instead of patting the dog on the head. Patting on the head obstructs a dog’s sense organs and can be misconstrued as an act of aggression.
- Children, as well as adults, should be educated in good dog training and behavioural management practices (dogs can get confused if they attend training classes and then are given varying signals by different family members).
- Dogs should be socialized with as many children as possible, and as early as possible in their lives. It’s important that they get used to certain behaviours displayed by children, such as erratic movements, excitability and screaming. Remember — even dogs that don’t live with children are likely to run into them outside the home.
- Helping to care for a dog, or any pet, will teach a child responsibility and build the connection.
- Children should not hug or cuddle dogs that have not been fully socialized.
One way to introduce a child to a dog is to ask the child to put a dog treat on the palm of his or her hand, with the fingers close together. Let the dog approach the child to retrieve the treat. The child should hold the hand beneath the dog’s mouth level, and keep it still.
With proper introductions and ongoing supervision, children and dogs can share a wonderful family life.