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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.

 

Children and dogs : friends for life

Keeping a pet dog can enrich children’s life and help them build a sense of self-esteem and responsibility and develop diversified interests.

Friends for life
Children love to live and play with dogs by nature. They tend to treat pets as their closest friends, or even as their brothers and sisters. They like to play with pets, share their secrets with them and find comfort and consolidation in them. Besides, pet dogs make children feel secure in their life.

Many children with a pet have this similar experience: when they have received unjust treatment from others, they would rather retreat to their pets to pull out their sufferings and obtain comfort from the latter. Pets have become a most valuable source of confidence and friendship for children. That is why we often hear children to say: “My dog is my best friend”. Psychologists attribute the close relationship between children and pets to the “non-discriminating faith” on the part of pets. Pets will offer their unconditional love and care for their little owners, no matter how they have performed at the school or whether they have done something wrong. When children meet with any troubles or defeats, their pets will help them recover from psychological injuries and regain confidence.

Pets provide many learning opportunities for children
Children learn many things about natural sciences, life sciences in particular, when they live together with a pet. They learn important things about mother nature and life itself through interacting with pets. For example, they get exposed to the cycle of birth, growth and reproduction and they learn various little behavioural lessons by watching their pets responses and reactions. Pets serve as an encyclopaedia to younger children. Through playing with, feeding, training and caring for pets, children become aware of all the happy as well as tough moments that one experiences during growth, and  thus learns to respect all life forms.

Pet ownership helps children get more socially integrated
When you observe children playing with their pets you see how excited and enthusiastic they look. This is more than enough to realise the importance of pets in children’s social life; by giving more confidence to those who are withdrawn and also because children with pets have more chances to make new friends . Pets can also create more opportunities for family members to communicate with each other. By helping little ones taking care of pets, adult members in a family may share with their kids the happiness brought up by pet ownership. Pets, therefore, can serve as the “goodwill ambassador” in a household.

A recent study on pet ownership by children by researchers in Cambridge University finds out that the more pets a child keeps, the greater communication capacity the child will have. Their findings also point out that pet ownership is conducive to creating a more harmonious family environment between parents and their children.

A happy childhood is important for a child to grow into a responsible citizen. Keeping a pet helps children develop a rounded personality by bringing them a happier and more fun filled life and teaches them about love and care for their family, society and nature.