Guidelines for introducing dogs and children

There are a few things parents need to know and do before they bring a new child into a household where a dog lives. Similarly, it is equally important to follow certain guidelines to bring a new dog into a home with children. Here are a few of those things. 

Introducing new children into a house containing a dog:

  • Ideally, the dog should have been socialised to children as a puppy.
  • The dog should be responsive to you and readily obey basic commands (e.g. sit, come etc.).
  • Your routine with the dog should be modified in anticipation of the arrival of a new child. If the dog is used to spending all of his time with the owner, this should gradually be reduced so that no sudden reduction occurs when the child arrives.
  • As soon as a new baby arrives, dogs should be rewarded (with food or praise) when in his presence so that they come to associate the presence of the child with pleasure. Shutting the dog away or shouting at him whenever the baby appears may lead to the dog perceiving the child as a negative experience.
  • Aspects of canine health care such as worming and control of other parasites should be a routine part of responsible dog ownership. However, care must be taken to ensure that this is not overlooked with all the new activities associated with the arrival of a new child.
  • In the interest of both, a dog and a young child should never be left alone without supervision.
  • Before the baby arrives, get the dog accustomed to child-like playing. The dog should be rewarded for accepting this contact. It will also be beneficial if other children can be encouraged to handle the dog while rewarding him with food or praise.
  • The dog should be taught not to snatch food or toys from your hand but only to take these objects gently after being told to do so. Practicing with the help of other children when training is complete will be beneficial as it will teach the dog not to steal food or toys from young children.

Introducing new dogs into a household containing children:

  • If a puppy is chosen, you should ensure that he is young enough to be socialised to children, or has had positive experience of children in the breeder’s home.
  • If an older dog is obtained, his response to children should be assessed prior to getting him into the family. This is particularly important at feeding occasions or when in possession of a toy. Some dogs who are not accustomed to the presence of children may respond in a fearful or threatening way on these occasions.
  • Children should be educated in the responsibilities of pet ownership for example, that pets are not toys, and can feel pain if roughly handled.
  • Children should be encouraged to take part in activities with dogs that are appropriate to the child’s age. For example, a four-year-old child can assist their parent in the preparation and presentation of food.
  • At an appropriate age, children should be encouraged to train dogs in appropriate obedience activities such as sitting and coming when called. These activities serve to teach dogs that children are higher in the social hierarchy.

 

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