Getting a new puppy as a child is a wonderful and exciting experience! As your kids and your new puppy are all young and learning how to properly interact with each other, it is up to you to set some ground rules for their introduction and future life together.
Preparations before your puppy comes home
It’s recommended that your house be puppy proofed prior to their arrival home, and that your puppy has its own designated space where their bedding and some of their toys are kept. This will become their personal area within your home, and that’s important to establish to both your puppy and your children from day one.
“It is vital that you give your puppy space and allow them to explore and build their confidence in a safe and positive manner,” says Serena Dean, Veterinary Behaviour and Training Manager for Greencross Vets. “Provide your puppy with a safe zone they can retreat to. This safe zone should be a cosy, warm, enclosed space such as a crate with the door open. If your puppy is in the safe zone, give them their space and do not force them to go in or to get out of their safe zone.”
It’s also a good idea to leave the kids at home when you go to pick up your puppy. This may be the first time your new addition has been away from the rest of its litter, so they will already be overwhelmed – the last thing they need is to be around people treating them like a stuffed toy, or frightening them by making loud noises and moving unpredictably.
The initial meeting between your children and their puppy
Before your children meet your new puppy it’s helpful to explain that they need to stay calm and quiet, as jumping or screaming with excitement will frighten the puppy. It might be difficult, but try letting your puppy approach your kids, not the other way around, as this may prevent them from becoming scared. Make sure you are present until both parties know how to behave appropriately around one another – one of the first lessons for your kids should be how to pick up, hold and pat your new family member. Remember that you should never leave a puppy alone with a child.
Tip: Put some puppy pads down on the ground in the rooms where the introductions will take place – chances are your puppy will get excited and have a few accidents.
It’s important to note that puppies tend to operate at one of two speeds – stop, or full speed ahead. Your new puppy may soon become very tired and must be left alone to rest. It is particularly important to make sure children know that your puppy needs undisturbed rest and sleep. Visitors will ideally be minimised during these first few days also; it is quite enough for the pup to meet the new pack without meeting all their excited friends as well. Even a grown dog will feel confused when introduced into a new home.
Your lives together
Children have an important role in training your new puppy. They must teach the puppy that they are its leaders too, to ensure the puppy doesn’t try to dominate them. This is most easily done by getting the children to control the feeding and making the puppy sit before they put down the meal. Leaving a short lead on a supervised puppy will help children get control of a dog and react appropriately if it begins to mouth and jump up.
Besides being their leader, your children must be taught how to respect a puppy and how to play with them. Discourage children from teasing your new puppy with toys or treats as this may lead to your puppy jumping or excessive barking. A great way to teach your puppy and your children how to be on their best behaviour is to enrol them in a Puppy School program. Petbarn’s puppy school is designed for puppies to start when they are between 8-16 weeks old. Throughout the 4-5 week course we will take you, your children and your new puppy through training essentials including toilet training, basic cues and commands, and socialisation.
Parents should also remember that children are easily distracted and cannot always be relied on to provide adequate supervision of a pup when house training, especially if they are also watching TV or playing with friends. However by encouraging good habits in both your children and your puppy, you will help them all grow into responsible adults. For more advice on how to safely raise a puppy alongside your children, book a consultation with your local Greencross Vets.