The bond between children and their pets can be very special. For new parents with pets or those just introducing one into the household, you’ll soon see this for the first time. Dogs, especially, can help children develop a sense of responsibility, encourage exercise, and provide a child with endless affection and an upbringing full of memories.
If you’re a new parent introducing one or more dogs into the family, though, there may be challenges that arise at first. Dogs and children don’t inherently know how to act around each other when they first come in contact, so it’s important to consider how you can keep everyone safe as the family grows. Here are our top five suggestions for keeping your children safe around a new dog:
1. Lay Ground Rules and Establish What Is and Isn’t Acceptable: Children that aren’t used to being around dogs won’t know how to behave appropriately without being taught. You need to show your children what’s acceptable and understand how important it is that they change their behavior based on the dog they are interacting with. For some dogs, a pulling of the tail is nothing more than playful behavior, while other will feel threatened and may bite you for doing so.
Consider a family meeting to discuss and establish rules for behavior around the dog. If you have multiple kids, consider having the oldest in charge of writing all the ideas down so their younger siblings will stay engaged and be encouraged to contribute. This meeting is also a great time to decide who will be responsible for feeding, walking, and other basic care tasks for your dog.
2. Watch Toddlers at All Times Around the Dog: 88 percent of all 2-year-olds that died as a result of a dog attack were unsupervised when it occurred. While your new dog and kids are getting used to life with one another, keep an especially close eye on the babies and toddlers involved.
3. Spay/Neuter Your Dog: Many people look at this as solely just for preventing unwanted pregnancies. However, it can also do wonders for reducing aggression – especially in male dogs. Discounted spay and neuter programs may be available for owners that have adopted a pet or for pet owners in your community as a whole.
4. Train and Set Expectations For Your Dog: Dogs are smart creatures, and they need to be taught what’s expected of them in the household just as much as children do. Train them over their boundaries, how they are expected to act, and the consequences for misbehaving. Some breeds are natural people pleasers, while others can be much more mischievous and need firm direction and correction of behavior.
5. Give Your Dog Plenty of Exercise:
Exercise is an important outlet to help dogs release built up energy that leads to hyperactivity, mischief, and possible danger to small children. Older children in your family may be involved in this by walking the dog or playing ball with them in the yard. It is recommended that you help your dog become conditioned to a regular exercise routine, including warmup and cool down periods to start. During the warmer months of the year, keep a water bowl nearby so they stay properly hydrated. Your vet can recommend appropriate exercises for your dog’s breed, age and weight. Dog fitness trackers like Whistle are also available that track how much exercise your dog is receiving throughout the day.
Whatever rules and methods of discipline that are set, make sure you implement them starting the first day that your new dog becomes part of your family. This is essential for keeping your friends safe and and nurturing a dog that is pleasant to be around. By keeping these expectations consistent, your children will also help your new dog follow the rules too! Thanks for reading, and we wish you and your new furry friend a lifetime of happiness together. Have any tips you’d like to share with us on introducing a new dog to the family that you’ve learned about yourself? Let us know in the comments below!