Introducing Dogs to Young Children
Introducing a dog to young children can be intimidating. Whether bringing home a new dog or walking a dog out in the neighborhood, caution needs to be taken to ensure the safety of both the dog and the children. Learning a few tips can make the process easier for everyone and help the dog learn to properly interact with children.
When possible, make sure the dog has been properly socialized. If adopting a pet from a shelter, find out if the dog was used to being around young children. Shelters check the dogs to make sure they can tolerate handling, especially when it comes to food dishes and petting. Puppies usually aren’t a problem because they aren’t old enough to have been abused or neglected, which may cause behavior problems. However, they may jump on young children or play too roughly.
If a new baby is entering the home of a dog owner, preparation ahead of time is important. Have baby blankets around for the dog to get used to. Play with some of the toys that make noise so it can get used to some of the sounds. Watch videos of babies crying so it becomes familiar with the noise level. Allow the dog to enter the baby’s room and sniff some of the items. When the baby comes home, treat the dog as part of the family. Secluding the dog may make it feel threatened or replaced. Never leave the baby alone with the dog, but supervise as the dog sniffs the baby if it appears to be safe.
Teach young children how to properly treat dogs. They need to understand that dogs aren’t horses for riding on and ears and tails are not made for pulling on. Show them how to pet nicely and to avoid getting into the dog’s face. Teach them to never approach a dog they don’t know without permission. When bringing a new dog home, allow time for it to get used to new surroundings, smells and sounds. Minimize how much time is spent between child and dog in the beginning, until it appears the dog is comfortable.
Out in public
Before taking a dog out in public, make sure it can handle the attention from curious children. Play with the dog at home by petting and playing with the ears and face. These are the main things that children do with new dogs. If the dog is apprehensive at first, ask the child to stand back and gently talk to the dog, approaching slowly. Often, dogs are more comfortable sniffing a person’s hand before being pet. Food is the way to a dog’s heart, so it may be helpful to give the child a dog treat to offer to a shy dog before other interaction occurs.
As with any new situation, preparation is the key to success. Planning ahead for potential problems can prevent a child from being bitten. Children can be quick and unpredictable, which may intimidate a dog. Teaching both children and dogs how to interact with each other will make any meeting safe and happy.