Whether you have your own or meet the occasional pet in your neighborhood or the park, it’s important to help your kids learn how to behave around dogs.  Young children should never interact with a dog without consent from the owner and very close adult supervision, even with the family dog. If your child wants to interact with a dog, allow the dog to choose to do so rather than the child. If they approach the child looking relaxed and maybe nudging to engage with them, that’s a good sign.

As parents its paramount to monitor any interactions and intervene as soon as your dog shows the first sign that they are uncomfortable. Monitor them at all times and allow short, gentle interactions. Don’t let a child approach a dog or take food or a toy from them!

Dogs may find hugs and kisses stressful, especially if coming from a child whose body language cues they don’t understand. Teaching older children to be calm and quiet around dogs will help but young kids should always be a safe distance from dogs.

Safely introducing a dog or puppy to your family

  • It’s important to take things slowly and never leave them unattended with your children.
  • Start by explaining to your family how they need to behave with a new dog and help your kids understand your dog/puppy’s behavior. With older children, discuss the feelings the dog may have in different situations, this helps build empathy.
  • Introductions should be done in a calm, comfortable environment. Have your children sit quietly and bring the dog in to meet them. Ensure these experiences are positive for your dog/puppy and children by encouraging your child to throw treats on the floor for them. If your pet seems uncomfortable or stressed remove them from the situation and try again later when they are calm.

Socializing your puppy with children:

  • If you have a new puppy, it’s important to let them interact with children of all ages as part of their socialization.
  • Always reward your puppy for calm behavior with a treat or toy
  • Always supervise your puppy with children and remove them from the situation if they are getting afraid or over-excited.
  • Positive interactions will help your puppy feel less afraid of children and as an adult dog they will be relaxed being around children. It’s an essential step in their training.

Introducing dogs to babies

Here are some tips for welcoming a baby into the home if you already have a dog;

•     Change your dog’s routine gradually prior to baby arriving, so your dog won’t be in for quite the surprise when baby comes home.

•     Try to stick to your new routine and make sure it includes spending time with your dog. They will still need exercise to stop them getting bored so factor this in. it’s a great way to get you all out for some fresh air! Alternatively a dog walker could come in handy.

•     First introductions between your baby and dog should be when the baby is calm and quiet. Keep initial interactions short and positive; repeat them regularly to help develop your dog’s confidence.

•     If your dog feels afraid, support them, reassure them, allow them to have their own space and make sure they can get to their toys and bed for comfort

•     Worried about your dog struggling with your new baby? It’s worth contacting your vet and a certified behaviorist for advice.

•     Purchase a few toys which will keep your dog occupied while you’re busy parenting

Keeping children safe around dogs

  • Never leave children unattended with a dog even for a few minutes
  • Dogs may be protective of their toys and bowls or food; children should always keep a safe distance around these.
  • Never let your children approach dogs they don’t know. Always ask the owner if it’s okay for their dog to be petted.
  • Train your dog not to jump up on people, it may be fun when they’re a puppy but that cute pup will grow into a much bigger dog that could seriously injure a small child.
  • Never let children disturb a resting or sleeping dog. Your dog should always have a quiet place they can retreat to when they need to.
  • Children’s toys are not dog toys! Keep them separate so your dog learns the difference. Children’s toys can easily be destroyed into little pieces so always be careful that your dog doesn’t swallow anything they shouldn’t.
  • Do not allow your children to feed your dog while they are eating. This can encourage begging behavior, or stealing food from your child’s hand or plate.
  • Practice safe hygiene between your dog and child, pick up any dog poo immediately so your kids can’t touch it and always get your children to wash their hands after petting or playing with the dog.

If a dog approaches your child in a way they find scary, teach them to ‘be a tree’ – stay still and keep their arms close to their body and not make any eye contact. They should avoid running away as this will excite the dog and they may think it’s a game. Wild play, running and jumping may cause a child to get knocked over or injured, always supervise any interactions no matter how well you know the dog.

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