Doggy NewsDoggy Training

Puppies and children

Welcoming a new puppy in a home with children can be an exciting time, but its not always a match made in heaven. Puppies and children can go well together, and the relationship between a child and a puppy who grow up together is one of the most long-lasting relationships they will have. However, first impressions count so it’s important to get the relationship off to the best start by introducing them correctly and teaching the child how to behave around puppies.

How to introduce children and puppies successfully and safely.

Before your new puppy arrives explain to your child how they should act around them, so your child knows what is expected of them.  Explain to them that quiet gentle voices should be used, and they should always let your puppy approach them and they should always allow your puppy to move away if they want to.  Your new puppy could be very excited, nervous, afraid, and not know how to react to their new family members so give them time and space.

For the first meeting sit on the floor with your child in an open area where your puppy won’t be trapped and can move away if it needs to.  It’s important to start with gentle and calm interactions, your puppy needs to be able to approach in their own time and not feel they are being forced into a scary situation.  Allow your puppy to sniff and smell them and get used to their voice and smell, then if your puppy is comfortable allow gentle strokes on the puppy’s side & back but don’t reach over their head with their hands as your puppy may find this threatening.  Ensure that you keep a careful watch on your puppy to ensure that they are comfortable, if either your child or puppy start to get over excited or are becoming anxious then it's time to separate them and allow the puppy to go to its safe place.  Then start the introductions again when things have calmed down.

Teach your child to always be gentle and show them how to do this, let them know never to pull their fur, tail, or ears, not to carry them around like a teddy bear. Emphasise how important it is to be respectful of the puppy’s boundaries and not overwhelm them with too much physical contact. Likewise, it needs to be explained never to take something from puppy and either always get a grown up if puppy has stolen something they shouldn’t have and explain to your child the importance of keeping their toys safe and not leaving them where puppy may take them.

Always supervise interactions when your child is with your puppy, it's important to supervise the interaction closely.  Make sure your puppy is not showing any signs of fear or anxiety, and step in if the interaction becomes too rough or overwhelming for either your puppy or your child.  You are responsible to ensure the safety of both your child and puppy. If you are unable to provide constant supervision. Then a puppy pen, crate, stairgates or even a house line attached to you can all be used to ensure that unsupervised interactions done occur. It is when unsupervised interactions occur that problems arise. It should also be explained to your child that if your puppy is behind a stairgate, in a puppy pen or crate that, that is puppies space and that they shouldn’t enter without an adult nor should they disturb puppy when they are in this place. In addition being proactive rather than reactive to situations will set both your child and your puppy up for success. Do you notice certain times of the day when interactions don’t go as well as they could? When children come home from school? First thing in the morning when everyone gets up? These are normally the “busy” times in the day. When we are trying to get everyone fed, watered, changed and either out the door to school or in the bath for bed. Is there time for you to input a calm interaction for five minutes? If not schedule it in for when there is. Each new interaction your child and puppy have together needs to be a positive one. By putting your puppy or child in a situation where they feel they may need to react is going to encourage long term issues.

Depending on how old your child is will depend on what the level of interaction will be, but if they are at an age where they can understand basic obedience commands you can teach your child the basic commands such as "sit" and "stay," and encourage them to use these commands when interacting with your puppy.  This can help establish a sense of respect and trust between them and also help the puppy learn basic obedience.

Gentle calm introductions over several days will go a long way to developing a great happy bond and relationship for all, allowing it to be a positive and safe experience.  Using a crate for your puppy as a safe space is a good idea especially if you have young children, as are the use of dog/child gates to give safe space for both your child and puppy.

Be mindful of house much sleep your puppy needs. They need approximately 18-20 hours a day and many puppy biting problems arise when puppy is overtired and not getting the required amount of sleep. Just like young children have tantrums and meltdowns when overtired the same can be said for puppies. If you don’t feel your puppy is getting the required amount its important to advocate for them and explain to children that puppy is sleeping and not to be disturbed.

Tell-tale signs that your puppy is feeling worried:

  • Yawning, licking, or smacking of lips,
  • Ears held back and closer to their head,
  • Tension in the body,
  • Moving away, avoiding contact,
  • Growling, showing teeth
  • Snapping, biting. (last resort when everything else has been ignored)

Take the time to teach your child about these signs and signals. How to understand what puppy is trying to tell them. There are loads of resources online and books that you can buy to ensure that your child has a really good understanding of how to behave. Remember all dogs can and will bite if they are put in a position where their communication has been ignored. Growling and biting very rarely come out of nowhere so take the time to understand and read what it is your puppy is trying to tell you.

How a puppy can benefit a child.

“Everything I know, I learned from dogs.”

― Nora Roberts, The Search

Having a puppy can provide numerous benefits for children.  Here are a few ways in which a puppy can benefit a child:

  • Dogs keep children active: Playing with a puppy can encourage physical activity, such as running, jumping, and throwing, which can help children to develop strong muscles and improve their overall health.  And research has shown that children with dogs spend more time engaged in physical activity than children without dogs,
  • Studies have shown that children who grow up with dogs are more healthy, less likely to have asthma and have fewer days off school,
  • Taking care of a dog can teach children about responsibility, such as feeding, grooming, and cleaning up after the puppy, which can help them to develop important life skills and increase empathy.
  • A dog can help children to learn social skills, such as communication and cooperation, which can be beneficial for their development.
  • A dog is a great support buddy at all times but especially at emotional times and can help reduce anxiety.
  • A dog can provide emotional support for a child, such as comfort during times of stress or anxiety, which can help them to develop emotional resilience and coping skills.

Top tips.

  • Always supervise all contact and never leave a young child alone with a puppy,
  • The key to successful interaction is calmness,
  • Be mindful that your puppy will not know the difference between their toys and your child’s toys, so to avoid issues always try to ensure that your child’s toys are not left lying around within your puppy’s reach,
  • Puppies are curious and energetic animals, and they may not yet know how to interact with children in a safe and gentle manner,
  • Never allow your child to take a toy or food directly from your puppy always offer a trade,
  • Ensure your child does not disturb your puppy when it is sleeping or eating,
  • Ensure your child never puts their face in your puppy’s face.

At Hound & Hooves we actively encourage children to come along with their parents to puppy classes as it’s a great way for them to see the training in situ and ask any questions if something is worrying them. For all our upcoming classes please follow this link