Most of us who are dog lovers, learned how important the family dog is, from a special dog (or dogs) when we were children. Once that bond has been experienced, life without your best buddy nearby feels empty. Kids learn about loyalty, friendship and responsibility, from daily life with the family dog. And of course, how to love a creature who loves you unconditionally, who is not your parent or sibling.
As a parent you might wonder when is the best time to bring a dog or puppy into your family. How old should the kids be? Well, the answer is, almost any time. In many families, the dog is around before any children. In others, parents choose to wait until their first child is in school. Oddly enough, waiting to bring the first dog into the family often means a second child is younger than you thought was prudent, regarding the first child. So, other than adding a new puppy about the same time as adding a new child… go for it when you have the room and time for the dog, to be able to provide attention, training, exercise and socialization.
Introducing dogs to children is best done when the dog is between 8 weeks and about 6 months of age. Unless you find a dog that just doesn’t like being around kids (and there are some out there), it is never too late to train him to be child-friendly. Dogs are drawn to people. They are hard wired to be attached to humans, and let’s face it – kids are more fun and energetic than most adults. To begin the process of bringing a dog or puppy into your home with children, encourage your children to gently play with the puppy or dog, for short periods of time – always with adult supervision. After a few days, as the dog becomes comfortable, bring over your child’s friends so he learns to get along with other youngsters.
Be sure to involve the children with the puppy, enrolling your dog in beginning obedience classes. In these classes your canine companion will begin learning the basics of “sit,” “stay,” “down,” and the very important “off” commands, as well as other canine manners. The kids will be learning these behaviors and expectations (for the dog, obviously) and as it will likely turn out, the kids and the new furry family member will both benefit from the training. Later you may choose to graduate to more challenging training, and all of this will be a terrific experience for your children.
Here are a few tips that can help your family, when adding a new dog or puppy to your household:
Starting before you bring the dog home, teach your children these “pet principals”…
* Kids should know that the pet is a living creature and not a toy.
* Don’t let them grab things away from the dog.
* Be very gentle, especially with little puppies.
* The dog is not a wrestling partner.
* Regarding other dogs – never run up to strange dogs, or stare them down – these are challenges in dog language.
* Leave your dog alone when he is eating.
* ALWAYS supervise. You should never leave a pet alone with a small child.
* In time, as both grow older they will be fine together, to play, explore and be best friends, for life.