What’s New

How to safely introduce a new puppy to children

dog training advice by AnimalKind trainers

Dog Partners trainers in Fernie and North VancouverAre you bringing a new puppy home?

This article on how to introduce a new puppy to children is not to be missed! Valerie Barry of  Dog Partners shares a two-part article on safely introducing a new puppy to your family, followed by some ideas for games kids can play with dogs.

Let’s get reading!


Bringing a New Puppy Into Your Family

Having a puppy joining your family and letting your children grow up with a dog is a wonderful privilege.

Research into the benefits of children growing up with dogs indicates that caring for a pet helps children learn compassion, empathy and practice caring for others. Having a dog to play with can provide your children with more outdoor exercise as a healthy alternative to indoor screen time.

Getting a puppy is a brave undertaking for parents because all the work of looking after a puppy lies on them, which can make for a very busy household! Depending on their ages, kids can be great helpers and participate in some fun training activities, but ultimately, raising, walking, and training the puppy is the responsibility of the adults in the household.

If you have young children in your home, here are some good tips to help you raise a friendly family dog and keep everyone safe.

dogs at park playing with dog
Photo by Valerie Barry

Monitor interactions between your dog and children

Children and puppies (or adult dogs) should never be left alone together.

To help both puppy and child learn how to interact safely and appropriately, make sure:

  • Playing together only happens under adult supervision.
  • Young children only have free access to the puppy when parents are monitoring
  • Baby gates or pens are set up as stations where the puppy can have time to be on their own when eating, playing with food toys, or resting. If the puppy arrives already crate-trained, then crates can be a good option.

Baby gates and pens allow for more freedom than a crate and are a good way to transition to more freedom in the house once the puppy starts to mature.

dog and adult interacting with dog
Photo by Valerie Barry

Establish boundaries for food and toys

Young children shouldn’t have access to the puppy’s food, chew items, treasured toys or sleeping spots, especially in closed-in locations like crates and pens.

Young puppies can guard things. Guarding can look scary to children and needs to be managed by an adult.

Equally, the puppy shouldn’t have access to children’s toys or clothing items. An abandoned toy is free for the taking to a puppy.

Young children will naturally try and retrieve their toy and won’t understand subtle warnings from a puppy to leave them alone with their toy or a found item. Puppies can quickly escalate their behaviour to growling, lunging, and nipping which is normal dog behaviour but can be frightening, especially to a child.

Limit cuddle time for when the puppy chooses to

Cuddle time should be seen as an opportunity, not a “command” your puppy has to follow.

It is important that parents teach young children to call their puppy over for pets and attention instead of going to the puppy and touching or grabbing at them.

Children will learn that the puppy can say “yes” and choose to come over for attention, and that the puppy can also say “no” by moving away or choosing to remain at a distance.

These choices should be understood and respected by everyone in the house, including babysitters and visitors.

child with dog playing in the water photo by Valerie Barry
Photo by Valerie Barry

Plan ahead and make it a family project

Before the puppy comes home, have a plan for a reasonable daily routine that considers the needs of a new puppy as well as the future need to have a friendly, social family dog.

Raising a friendly dog takes a daily commitment to socializing your puppy and working on some critical skills, but with the right planning, it can be a family project with everyone participating.
Sign up in advance for rewards-based puppy classes or work one-on-one with a dog trainer who will help you train and socialize your puppy.

Check out some fun games that will help you raise a friendly family dog!

Resources for puppy guardians