Bringing a new puppy into the home is exciting, especially for families with small kids. Dogs are a large part of many families; however, they do not always have the best sense of behaving safely around children.
Training your puppy should be a priority when you want to establish a good relationship between your children and their new dog. Your goal is to set boundaries and ensure that your children will be safe when they are around and interacting with the puppy.
Unfortunately, dogs can instinctively become protective, and a child can disrupt that, which then triggers a puppy to act aggressively. So, it is crucial to properly train dogs so that you are stopping aggression in puppies and encouraging good behaviors so that they can safely be around children.
So, how can you teach your puppy to be kid-friendly? First, understand that it takes patience, commitment, and work. It would be best if you also taught your children to respect the puppy. Here are some helpful tips to help you train your dog to be friendly around kids.
Positive Reinforcement and Basic Commands
Association with good things and earning rewards is a great tactic to start with when training your dog anything. For example, you can teach your dog to behave around children by encouraging good behaviors and rewarding your puppy when it acts correctly to associate the behavior with a reward.
Your first step to teaching your dog how to exhibit good behavior is by teaching basic commands and ensuring that it will follow them. Such commands should include:
- Leave It
- Let Go
- Lay Down
Setting the rules and boundaries for your puppy as soon as possible helps keep your dog from developing poor habits. For example, sometimes new puppy owners think it is okay to allow their pets to jump on people in greeting, but this could cause harm to minor children.
Suppose you struggle to train your dog yourself or feel you aren't doing it correctly. There are many affordable training classes for dogs, both in-person and online. Professionals with a lot of experience can help you create a strong relationship with your puppy and teach it to behave well.
Exposure to Children and Their Things
A puppy that is only around adults is not equipped to be around young kids. In addition, children tend to be less predictable and prone to be louder and full of energy. All of these actions can make a puppy feel overwhelmed.
Exposing your puppy to children as soon as possible helps your furry friend understand and feel more comfortable around them. Ensure your dog is around children when they display all kinds of emotions - crying, screaming in delight, laughing, running around, and playing - so that your dog can get used to your kids' behaviors. Do this gradually, and eventually bring other children around the puppy of different ages so that your dog can become used to more and more people in one setting.
Kids also tend to have toys and items scattered throughout the home. Some of these toys can be noisy and scare a puppy, and it could chew other items and destroy them. Teach your dog to be around your children's things without destroying them, and utilize basic commands like "leave it" or "let go" if it tries to take one of your kid's toys. Allow your dog to sniff items and become familiar with scents that will be around the house.
Setting and Keeping a Routine
Developing a set structure for your dog to follow is essential for helping it behave appropriately. For example, there should be set times for your puppy to play with and be around your children, as well as times for eating, walking, bathroom, and more.
Routines help acclimate your puppy with kids because they become accustomed to everyday habits. Specific times when they know your children will be preoccupied, like naptime or eating times, can be mirrored by your puppy, which will help develop a good relationship and establish a strong bond.
Socialize Your Dog and Respect Its Feelings
Your new puppy might instinctively be scared of your children, so don't force your pet to approach them. Instead, let them meet more naturally and gradually. Forcing interactions can result in your dog associating your children with something terrible and create resentment from your puppy.
Socialization needs to occur slowly to not overwhelm your dog with too much at once. Try to watch your dog's cues and body language for feeling threatened, such as tucking its tail, growling, or pulling its ears back, and remove it from the situation, so it does not feel anxious or aggravated. Make sure it has a safe space within your home to go and escape and relax.
Watch All Interactions Between Your Puppy & Child
Keep both your new puppy and child in sight at all times until your dog has been adequately trained and you feel one hundred percent confident in both your dog and child's behaviors around each other. New puppies still have many instincts, and children are not always aware that something they do could upset their new pet. Your dog may not deliberately act aggressively but may react to something that your child does.
Teaching your puppy to be kid-friendly is a task but very crucial to your dog's upbringing. If you ever feel that the job is too challenging or you are having a struggle with a puppy that will not acclimate to kids, consult with a veterinarian or dog behavior specialist for further assistance. In some cases, there are just some dogs that aren't fit to be around children.
Even for new pet owners without children, it is a good idea to train your puppy how to behave for any family, friends, or other situations and encounters where it could be around kids. Training your dog to handle itself around others is an excellent tool to have a well-rounded and friendly pet, and allow your child to develop a great relationship and indeed be man’s best friend.
Special thanks to our Guest Post contributor: Melissa Waltz
"Melissa’s love for animals is not limited to being a mother to her five dogs. As a former vet tech, she has spent many years treating and caring for sick animals and found it to be an extremely rewarding career. Her professional experience in the vet industry allows her to share insight that is both fact-checked and observation-based. Nowadays Melissa spends her free time volunteering at animal shelters in the Dallas area and offering advice to pet owners everywhere."