Pals for Life: Introducing your children to a new dog

It’s a big decision to add a dog to your family, especially if there are children involved. You want to do everything you can to ensure they become lifelong friends because the benefits of having a dog in the family, are endless.

Dogs can help to improve your child’s social skills and the ways in which they interact, whilst also teaching them to love and care for something that they have some responsibility for. This relationship helps to build strong skills that can be essential in later life.

When first welcoming a dog to your home, it is very important to remember that they will be curious and possibly sceptical about a new family. On the other hand, if you have young children and your dog has never had to share attention, then your puppy could get jealous and crave attention from you.

Babies and toddlers squeal, cry, and shout, a dog will find all of this difficult to understand and even more difficult to react to.

Keeping a close eye on how the relationship develops is key and as the RSPCA warns, children can get over excited and choose to express affection in very different ways to adults. A child will choose to squeeze, smother, carry and kiss a dog - cute to see, but not if you’re a dog. A dog may see this as a threat and may not reciprocate with love, remember that you want your child to treat your dog as they would treat another child.

So, what are the golden rules?

The most important thing is to never leave a young child alone with your dog, things can change and go from good to bad in an instant, so always make sure there is an adult around.

Encourage games and playtime between your children and your dog. It’s a good way for both parties to see how each other reacts in different situations and this will also help to build a stronger relationship.

Do your research, it’s worth knowing the best breeds to have around children. Iheartdogs.com recommend Boxer dogs, they’re very playful and people orientated, and are known for their love of children. Another family favourite is the Golden Retriever, with their big smile, they are usually both intelligent and eager to please.

If your child is old enough, it is a good idea to teach them when not to approach a dog, for example, when they’re eating, sleeping or not feeling well. It’s also useful to teach your youngsters how to look out for behaviour from the dog that suggests they should steer clear, like a lack of eye contact, lowered ears and a tucked away tail.

Most importantly, a family that includes dogs and children is enjoyable especially if they become the best of friends - loyal, trustworthy and always there.

Have you introduced your child to your four-legged friend? Let us know about your experiences on Facebook and on Twitter

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