Watchpoints: young children and puppies
Veterinarians often advise parents to wait until their children are between seven and nine before having a puppy join the family. But this is not always realistic and, with supervision, smaller children and puppies can live happily together.
Supervision is important for many reasons. Toddlers may think that puppies are toys who enjoy having their tails pulled, and puppies may mistake toddlers for littermates, and be rougher with them as a result. Children and puppies may decide it’s a good idea to try each other’s food; because of this, it’s important to keep dog food out of reach of babies and toddlers. Some types of puppy food and treats could lodge in a child’s throat, and a baby or toddler might cause a puppy to be ill by feeding him the wrong kinds of food, or too much food.
How puppies benefit children
As children become older, they can take some of the responsibility for the puppy’s care, as long as an adult supervises. Many parents bring a puppy into the family to teach their child responsibility. But it’s important to remember that children generally have short attention spans, and that the parent is responsible for the puppy’s care.
A puppy can teach a child many lessons. While learning about the importance of brushing their puppy’s teeth, for example, a child may understand why it’s important for them to brush their teeth and practice proper grooming. Puppies love unconditionally and children who are lonely, or have high demands placed on them, often find that a puppy provides a non-judgmental friend and relieves stress. And, because puppies communicate differently than humans, they teach children to be aware of body language and non-verbal communication. This helps to instill compassion and sensitivity in children.