Your dog and your children will need to meet at some point, you can’t keep them apart forever. We understand this can be a daunting thing, but it can also be a fun and enjoyable experience.
Just like your dog needs training, your children will also need to be taught how to interact with dogs. You should be open-minded when it comes to introducing them to one another, it’s a new encounter for both of them which should be encouraged.
We’re going to take a look at some of the ways you can teach your child to safely interact with your dog.
Firstly, you will need to introduce your child to the new family member. How your dog reacts will depend on a few factors:
- Who was here first?
Did your dog get all of the attention until the new arrival? Or has the dog just been added to your family? If your dog is a new puppy, it can grow up being around children, noises and all of the attention that brings with it, if your dog is a little older and used to the quiet life with just adults, it may take time to adjust.
- Have you adopted a puppy or rescued a dog?
When you rescue a dog, you don’t know what their past life was like. If, for example, the dog regularly got its tail pulled by a child, it may be nervous around children. When you rescue a dog, the rescue centre will usually tell you if they can be around children so you can get an idea about what they’re like.
The first encounter
Whatever the age of your child, sit with them and call the dog over. Sitting at the dog’s level will allow the dog to see them clearly. Don’t let them touch the dog yet, just let the pup sniff the child if they want to.
Dogs learn by smelling, if they notice the child smells like you, they will recognise them as a friend. If they are gentle when around the child, praise them. You should even give them a treat as an extra acknowledgement. If the child is a little older, you can get them to give the dog a little training treat when it behaves.
Dogs won’t have much interaction with new-born babies. Interaction at this age will mostly be when you’re holding the baby and the dog wants to be fussed too. The challenge with teaching your child to interact with the dog really starts from when they start crawling and can interact on their own. The dog will know the baby’s smell and understand they’re part of the family, but you will need to show and explain some things to the child:
- Which direction to stroke them (stroke down the back). Keep praising the dog while the child strokes it.
- When to stroke them (not when they’re eating or drinking).
- How to play with them (not when they’re sleeping).
- What to avoid (while the tail may seem funny to children, you need to teach them not to pull it. The same goes for the ears).
Learn when the dog is tired
Teach your children to understand when the dog is tired. If the dog is sleeping or laying down, explain to them that it’s not playtime yet. When the dog is up, or if they bring a toy to them, then it’s time to play. We know it’s difficult because playing fetch can be so much fun, but let them know dogs need nap times too or they will be grumpy.
Teaching your children how to communicate and interact with your dog is vital for a happy home. Your dog and child need to feel comfortable living together, so getting them used to each other is key. Once the child knows when they should and shouldn’t touch the dog, the boundaries have been set and can make a big difference.