Puppies and young kids have a lot in common: they’re both highly energetic, very curious, and easily distracted. In some ways, this makes them especially compatible — with both having equally high energy, neither ever needs to worry about getting bored! But those similarities can also cause them to clash if you don’t start them out on the right foot.
Most dogs are considered to be fully grown when they’re between 18 and 24 months old. Anything younger is technically a puppy. In most cases, the younger a puppy is when you get them, the better you can help them learn and fit in. However, being that young means there’s a lot they don’t know about the world. The erratic behavior of excited children could startle a puppy who’s just trying to adjust to life without their mother or siblings.
To help make the process better for your new puppy and your children, keep the following tips in mind as you bring the new family member home.
Start Introductions Off Right
The average American home has almost doubled in size since the 1950s with today’s average around 2,500 square feet, so it makes sense that many people would want to get a pet or two to share their home with.
But when introducing a new puppy to children, it’s important to keep your kids in check while the puppy explores for the first time. Young children, especially, will want to run up to the puppy and start petting it. Instead, have them stand a little way off and let the puppy approach them. Giving the little dog space to breathe and time to nose their way around will prevent them from feeling startled or uncomfortable. Dogs are very social creatures, so it won’t be long before they want to play with your children.
Supervise All Child-Dog Interactions
For the first couple of months, your children and the new puppy will be learning how to behave around each other. To make sure the behavior that ultimately develops is safe and fun for both, make sure you’re present and watching for at least the first few days. You may want to keep a close eye on them longer if your kids are very young.
You shouldn’t let your kids play rough-and-tumble with the puppy. Not only could this scare or injure the dog while they’re young, but it could also result in behavior problems later. A little puppy might not inflict much harm, but if they learn to fight and claw while they’re little, they could carry these habits into adulthood and accidentally hurt someone.
Guide Your Children in Helping Care for the Puppy
Besides having a source of accepting companionship whenever anyone wants it, pets are wonderful for families because they present an opportunity to teach responsibility. Eventually, your little one will have to handle all kinds of adult responsibilities like caring for their home and paying their income taxes, which account for about half of federal revenue. Filing taxes may seem far-off for your kids, but its never too early to introduce them to life’s smaller responsibilities. Even if they’re not old enough to do many chores by themselves, but you can start them off by taking them with you as you care for the little dog. Show them what to do to take care of the puppy properly and let them help whenever possible.
Like puppies, children need plenty of freedom to play and explore as they grow up. But it’s also important to provide some amount of structure and to help them learn that they must contribute to the world somehow by being useful. Families often use simple tasks for this, like taking out the trash or watering the lawn, which typically requires one inch of water per week. But showing kids how to care for animals can be an even better strategy, as it teaches responsibility, independence, and even empathy.
Enforce Quiet Time
All babies need occasional naps while they’re growing up and puppies are no exception. It can be difficult for young children to understand or accept that the puppy needs to stay in their bed or crate for a little while every day. After all, to a fun-loving child, a puppy can represent never-ending playtime.
Not only is quiet time important for your puppy’s health and happiness, but it can also present a gentle way to teach your kids patience and discipline. Help them understand that when the puppy trots off to hide out in a corner or in their bed, it’s because they’re tired and need rest. You can try teaching empathy by reminding them of a time when they were sleepy after playing all day and helping them see that the puppy feels the same way sometimes.
Not only is raising a little dog exciting for the whole family, but it provides unique opportunities to help children mature and understand the world. By watching over everyone calmly and following these tips, you can ensure the experience is not only positive but educational and uplifting, too.