Are you thinking of adding a new dog to your family? Dogs can teach children empathy for other living things, help them stay active, and reduce stress and boredom. Although a four-legged family member means happy tail wags and face kisses, fostering a successful relationship between a new dog and kids requires careful planning. The WesVet Animal Hospital team provides seven tips to help kids and dogs become best friends, with mutual respect. 

#1: Teach your kids respect for dogs

Some children may see dogs as toys, but they must understand dogs are living beings. Discuss the importance of gentle dog handling with your kids, and encourage them to avoid fast movements or loud noises. Check out articles on dog bite prevention and dog body language for tips to pass on to your kids. Prior to bringing your new dog home, reach an agreement with your kids on the following ground rules: 

  • Never pull on a dog’s ears, tail, or other body parts
  • Do not hug a dog
  • Do not tease or chase a dog
  • Do not disturb a dog while they are eating or chewing on a toy
  • Do not disturb a dog who is resting or sleeping

#2: Choose the right dog

Do you know your potential new dog’s history with children? Did your kids help select their new friend? Older dogs with arthritis may be less tolerant of children, and smaller breeds can easily become injured if stepped on or not properly handled. When you select your new furry friend, schedule a wellness exam at WesVet Animal Hospital. We can ensure your dog is healthy by performing a nose-to-tail examination, updating any needed vaccinations, and checking for fleas or internal parasites.

#3: Plan the new dog’s introduction to your kids

When introducing a new dog, keep them on a leash, using a “Sit” or “Stay” command. A dog may become nervous or stressed in a new environment, so instruct your kids to keep their hands to themselves, and to approach the dog from the side. This will allow the new dog to go at their own pace, and to slowly get acquainted with your kids through smell. Ensure your kids do not have food in their hands or on their clothes, which can overly distract a dog. Offer treats to the new dog for good behavior, but keep little hands empty and away from the dog’s mouth. 

#4: Help the new dog become accustomed to kids

You will need to closely supervise a new dog with your children and watch for potential problems. Handle the dog regularly so they become accustomed to being touched and prodded, and positively reinforce their good behavior. Help your new dog develop a happy association with your kids through treats, food puzzles, child friendly games, and group dog walking.

#5: Provide the new dog with a safe place away from kids

Ensure your new dog has a crate or pen as a safe place to retreat from family activity and relax. The safe place should not be isolated, but in an area off-limits to your kids. Playtime is a great way for a new dog to develop a relationship with your kids, but children must understand that playtime is over when the dog walks away. 

#6: Teach house manners to the new dog

Good house manners enhance a new dog’s ability to blend into your family. Teaching your dog commands such as “Sit,” “Down,” “Leave it,” and “Go to your place” are especially helpful. Dog obedience classes are an excellent way to develop techniques for encouraging positive behaviors, and addressing problems as they arise. Let your kids participate in dog obedience training so all family members provide a consistent message. Depending on your child’s age, allow them to help feed and care for the dog to develop mutual respect, and to enhance their bond.

#7: Never leave a small child and a dog unattended

The sweet vision of a dog and toddler sleeping together can become a nightmare if your child decides a big squeeze or ear tug would be fun. Always keep your dog contained around small children when you cannot provide supervision. 

The WesVet Animal Hospital team would love to meet your new furry friend. Don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule their wellness exam, and to discuss the best ways to integrate a new dog into your household.