Raising Children and Dogs Together

This page is informational and in no way replaces consulting a veterinarian or trainer.

The relationship between a child and a dog can be extremely special. However, it is important to understand a few key points to ensure success. Your children will probably try to treat your dog like another sibling and your dog will try to treat your child like another dog. Laying the proper groundwork will help them both learn the difference and set them on the path to a magical lifetime together.

If your children are old enough, it is a good idea to include them in the discussion to adopt a dog. They're more likely to accept some responsibility for the pet if you set expectations ahead of time and they feel involved.

Training your dog

Remember dogs communicate to each other with their mouths. Dogs sometimes forget that your child is not a litter-mate and this type of communication is not something you want to occur between your child and your new pup. For example, rowdy puppy play can involve a puppy nipping his brother. Without correction training, childish exuberance can receive the same reaction. Taking your dog to classes with a certified trainer is the perfect way for your pup to learn his place in the pack. Often these classes allow children to participate so if they are old enough we strongly encourage you to bring them along. If they aren't able to attend teach them the tools later and allow them to practice with your pup at home so your dog learns their role in the family.

Training your child

Many dogs, especially larger breeds, are tolerant of small children. Regardless, it is important for your children to learn to be gentle and to never bully your new pet. Supervise your children when they play with your dog, especially in the first few weeks. Infants and toddlers do not understand the difference between their stuffed animals and your live pet. Miscommunication can occur in an instant so they should NEVER be left alone together. 

There are some important things to teach your children that can help their understanding of each other. 

1. Speak dog. If your dog does nips at your child or starts to play too rough, have your child cry like a puppy. A high pitched squeal will send the message in an understandable language that they have crossed a line. 

2. Play Gently. Rowdy play confuses and overstimulates a dog. By teaching your children to play quieter games with your dog it will avoid misunderstandings.

3. Don't bother your pet at meal times or nap times. Eating are sleeping are times that a dog are extremely focused. They can be easily startled or may even feel threatened. By teaching your children to not disturb your dog at these times you will avoid the possibility of issues all together.

4. Properly hold a dog. The best way to hold a dog is with one hand under the chest while cradling the bottom with your other hand. Hold the dog close to your body, while supporting his feet. A young child should only hold a puppy when sitting and you are close by. A young puppy can easily squirm out of a child's hands and hurt himself or your child.