Introducing Dogs & Children
It is important that you manage the introduction to your family carefully and that children are directly supervised at all times with the dog or puppy. Introducing a new canine member to the family is a special and exciting time but can be a little overwhelming for all concerned.
However, this can be managed with planning, so that everyone feels happy and safe.
One of the key steps is to create an environment which is calm and quiet, allowing interaction by the dog or puppy on their terms by letting them approach the child, which will generally occur relatively easily, if children themselves calm and quiet.
Teaching children to safely handle and interact with a dog by encouraging gentleness and respect will help create a bond of mutual trust.
When it is time for the children to meet your dog, make sure the children sit calmly and quietly, and the dog will usually come to investigate out of natural curiosity. Teach the children to speak softly and slowly and gently pat the dog on the shoulder, and not on the
top of their head or tail. Rewarding the dog for calm behavior with a food treat (by the supervising adult) helps to reinforce calm behaviour around children and also helps them to associate children with something positive. Then take the focus off the dog by giving the children another activity. This way the dog can get to know the children at a pace they are comfortable with.
Children must always be directly supervised with dogs. Always ensure the dog can get away from the children if they want to and do not force any interactions. Make sure that your dog has an area that they can go to retreat from the child and have a break, if they are getting overwhelmed. Teach the children that when dogs are eating, sleeping, or in a crate the dog should be left alone, and when the dog is overly excited it is best that they are not together.
Similarly, if the children are over excited, this might become overwhelming for the dog, so it may be best to end the interaction.
Children should avoid hugging dogs as this can make the dog feel trapped. Also, dogs may become frightened if chased by children, so this should be avoided.