Children who grow up with dogs are more active than those without, with one study finding they do an average of 360 steps more every day. Some dogs will naturally like being around children and enjoy their company, while others can find them too loud and overwhelming, which could lead to aggressive behavior, often due to fear.
When introducing dogs to children for the first time make sure the experience is positive. With some basic training and rules in place, children and dogs get on brilliantly together and form relationships that can’t be beaten, making dogs a good addition to any family.
Training a Pup
Bringing a puppy into your home can be a joyful experience. Whether you’re expecting your first child, or your pooch is moving in to a home with children, you’ll need to teach them how they should behave. Between the ages of 8-16 weeks your puppy will be able to learn and comfortably accept a variety of new situations, so it’s a critical time to introduce them to everything they’ll encounter daily.
If you don’t have children, ask family or friend if you can introduce them to their children. Make sure the child is comfortable with your dog and is happy to pet them and offer treats so that your dog associates children with positive things.
Training an Older Dog
If you’ve rescued or adopted an adult dog that isn’t familiar with children, then training may take a little bit longer and you might need them to unlearn old habits. Adult dogs should be introduced to children gradually, starting with older children who will be calmer around them, and then work towards younger children, who are usually more playful and noisy until your dog is comfortable around them.
Children’s games and toys can be loud and scary for dogs, so introduce these to dogs without children around so that they become familiar with the sounds. Alternatively, there are some games that children like to play, such as charades, that dogs may want to get involved in. When kids are acting movies out keep an eye on your dog to make sure they don’t become excitable and jump up. You should also teach them not to play with toys that aren’t their own with the ‘leave’ and ‘stay’ commands.
Rules for All Dogs
Dogs of any age should be trained to listen to their owner and treat them as the leader of the pack. Taking them to an obedience dog trainer and doing regular training at home with them will form a strong bond between you and your dog where they will trust you and listen to you.
You should teach dogs not to jump up on people, so that they don’t excitedly welcome a child and accidentally push them over. This is regardless of your dog’s size as even smaller breeds can jump up with force and it can scare the child. Teach your dog to associate good things with all four paws being on the floor, so tell them to sit when they jump up and then give them lots of attention and treats for the good behavior.
Training your dog how to behave around children is essential as they will encounter them at some point, whether it’s out on a walk, at family gatherings or your own children. It’s important that children are also taught rules on how to behave around dogs, such as to pet them gently, not to pull their fur or tail and not to chase them as this will all make your dog feel negatively towards children.