Children and dogs can be the best of friends. However, it is wise to go slowly. Many dogs can find the high pitched squeals and quick movements of children to be rather scary. Some children can find the rambunctious playfulness of some puppies to be intimidating. With patience, most dogs and children can be taught to enjoy each other, they often form deep bonds that stay with them long into adulthood.
Introducing Children to a New Dog
Step 1: Before you even get the dog, you should teach the child the right way to pet a dog. Once the child understands that the best way to approach a dog is in a calm manner, then you can take him to meet the potential puppy. Walk the child through the right way to greet and pet a dog. Several times, if necessary.
Step 2: “A bribe is a charm to the one who gives it; where ever he turns, he succeeds.” (Proverbs 17:8) When the dog and child meet for the first time, instruct the child to give the dog a treat. Make sure that your child is holding the treat under the dogs head and that his palm is flat. It is much safer for the dog to lick the treat off a child’s hand than it is for him to try to grab it with his teeth.
Step 3: Ensure that both the child and the puppy feel that there is an escape route. Cornered animals can be dangerous!
Step 4: If the child is fearful and the dog is excitable, keep the dog on a leash. This way the child will feel that he has an escape route. If the dog gets too rambunctious, you can lead him out side until he calms down. Several times, if necessary. Go slowly, for sake of the kid and the dog.
Step 5: Make sure that the dog has a “den” (i.e. a crate or other preferred hiding place) that he can hide in when he gets too overwhelmed.
Step 6: Let sleeping dogs lie. Children need to be taught not to pet dogs when they are eating or sleeping.
Introducing a Dog to a New Baby
If you have a new baby, you want to give your dog some time to adjust to the sudden and drastic changes that will soon disrupt his tidy little routine. You had nine months to prepare for your little bundle of joy, but this will be all new to your dog.
Step 1: When you find out that you are expecting, set down some new rules and begin enforcing them before the baby comes. Not after. This way, his new routine will be set when the baby comes and the change won’t seem as drastic. Whether or not he is allowed to jump, if he is no longer allowed in certain rooms, etc. should all be established before the baby comes home.
Step 2: Teaching the dog a “move” or “back” command will be very useful when the mothers arms are holding the baby or when baby is old enough to crawl. This way nobody trips over a dog and becomes injured.
Step 3: Get your dog used to baby sounds. Babies aren’t quiet. They gurgle, they squeal, they scream and cry and all of this sounds unusual to dogs who aren’t used to kids. More alarming, some of the sounds that babies make can even sound like prey! It is very important that your dog is used to these noises long before the baby comes home. Some pet stores and many online stores sell c.d.s of baby noises that can be really helpful in habituating Rover to little Jr.
Step 4: Gather your dogs toys and put them in their own little toy chest. Dog toys and children’s toys look very much alike, and many dogs get confused over who’s toy belongs to whom. Teach Fido that his toys only come from his toy chest.
Step 5: Before you bring the baby into your home, let the dog sniff the blanket that the baby was wrapped in. Getting your dog used to the little one’s smells will make the greeting easier for him. When mom comes home, have someone else hold the baby so she can greet the dog. He will be very happy to see her and in the excitement, you don’t want the baby to be injured. Once he has settled down, let him sniff the baby.
Step 6: Don’t forget your dog. Once that baby comes, your house is going to be turned on end. Make sure that you still have a bit of time to devote to giving Rex his mental and physical exercise. Set reminders to let the dog out to do his business. If you are not meeting your dog’s needs, then he will look for stimulation elsewhere. Don’t blame it on “Jealousy,” this is just what happens when a dog’s needs aren’t met. Doggy Day Camps or professional dog walkers can all help lighten your load. If you have older children, they can be a big help to you as well.
Never leave a dog and baby unattended. Ever. Accidents happen, no matter how sweet and trustworthy the dog or the baby is. There is very little room for error on this. Always supervise infant and dog interaction.