Many families consider getting a dog at some point in their children’s lives. If you had dogs as a child, you always want another for the chance to offer your own children the opportunity to grow up with a canine best friend.
There are many huge advantages to adding a pet to your family. Especially a dog. They can be your children’s first best friend. They can help you all to get more exercise. They can be fantastic company. They can help look after your mental health and even protect you and look after you when you are ill.
Your whole family are sure to fall in love with your new dog very quickly, and as you fall into your new routine, you’ll wonder what you ever did without them. But, that first few weeks can be tricky. Even more so if puppies or toddlers are involved.
You’ll quickly find that your new dog and your children have a lot in common. They’ll both be nervous and excited. They both make huge amounts of mess and have horrible accidents, and they can both be a lot louder than you’d like them to be. All of these things will, in time, ensure they have a lifelong bond. But, it’s important that you get the first few weeks right, to ease any fears and help everyone, animal and human, settle, as soon as possible without any unnecessary distress.
Choose the Right Dog
If you are an animal lover, you’ll probably want to help those animals that need you the most. But, if you’ve got young children, rushing off to the local animal shelter and picking up anything you find could be a mistake. The most important thing always has to be your child’s safety and happiness. A rescue dog could be very nervous around children, and more likely to lash out. It’s imperative that you choose your new dog very carefully.
Look up breeds online, to find one that’s great with children and easy to train, as well as any other preferences such as how much exercise they need or how much hair they shed. Make sure the dog you chose fits into your home and lifestyle.
You’ll also want to look at the dog’s age and background. Puppies can be great because they’ll grow with your children. But, they can be hard to train, so you may want to go for slightly older. If possible, ask to see the dog’s parents, to judge their temperament, and ask how they are with children.
Let the Kids Help
Take the kids to visit the dog before you bring him or her home so that they feel like they have been part of the decision. Then, get them to help you get the home ready. Go shopping together for a bed, lead and other supplies. Making sure to educate your children along the way on what you need and why. Spend time answering their questions and teaching them how to look after a dog.
Take the Dog Home Alone
Your children are bound to be excited to meet their new friend, that’s only normal. The dog may also be quite excited. So, it’s a good idea to be alone the first time they come home. Find a babysitter or get your partner to take the kids out for a few hours when the dog first arrives. Then, spend some time just the two of you at home. Let it explore its new territory without an excited child running around. Introduce the kids a little later when things have settled down a bit.
Give the Dog Control
When you do first introduce dog and child, it’s important that the dog doesn’t feel threatened or overwhelmed as they’ll snap in self-defence. Tell your child that they need to stay calm and let the dog come to them. Sit them on the floor with a toy or chew and wait until the dog approaches. Then, they can start to play with or stroke them, gently and slowly, letting the dog make all of the first moves.
Then, after a short session, give the dog some space and wait until they approach again. Don’t try to pressurize or rush them into a relationship they are not yet sure about.
Give the Kids Responsibility
It’s essential that the kids are always aware that your dog needs looking after. Giving them responsibility will help the two form a bond and make things normal as fast as possible. How much responsibility you give them will depend on their age and maturity, but even very young children can help on walks or get food bowls out. This will also help the dog to realize that the child is also their master.
This is an area where new dogs are very much like new babies. When you bring a baby home from the hospital, putting a routine in place as soon as you can help them to settle and feel safe. They eat better, they sleep better, and they are generally more settled. Dogs can be the same. They’ll like having food, walks and quiet time, the same every day.
Find a routine that fits in with your other responsibilities and commitments and stick to it. For the first few weeks or even months, it can be a good idea to stick to this routine completely. It will help the dog settle and learn to trust you. After that, it’s ok to make the odd small change without upsetting them.
As the dog spends more time with the family, you’ll all get to know each other’s likes, dislikes and temperament. The dog will learn what to expect from you, and you’ll learn more about what they enjoy. Until then, it’s essential that you remember that not all dogs are the same and find ways to prepare your home itself.