You’ll find an awful lot of advice out there for introducing a new bundle of joy to the family pooch- but what are you meant to do if you want to bring home a new puppy to join your existing family? Here’s Ou Kaapse Vet’s top tips for introducing a new dog to your children.
Dogs are undoubtedly good for children. Kids who grow up with pets are less likely to develop allergies or get sick, and pets can be a critical part of children learning to be kind, compassionate and responsible young people. It’s important to realise that they are still kids, however, and many mistakes will be made along the road- it’s your job, as the responsible adult, to make sure the dog is a good match for your family and that it is treated in a way that will ensure a healthy, happy relationship with all family members throughout its lifetime.
Don’t get the dog for the kids
It’s perfectly fine to buy a dog knowing that they will be a key part of your children’s lives, but don’t frame the purchase as specifically for the little ones. For starters, they are only young- no matter how excited they are in the first weeks, the excitement will fade. The responsibility for caring for the new addition will always belong to the adult owners, so make sure you are well prepared and capable of caring for a canine family member. Add a dog to the family because it’s the right time and there is space and time for them, not as an object lesson for the kids.
Pick the right breed
There’s a reason every second person you speak to remembers having a Labrador as a child. Some dog breeds have the right blend of calmness and goofiness to make a natural match with exuberant young family members who won’t always get it right. Big burly breeds, guarding breeds, breeds known for possessive behaviour and delicate or tiny breeds, on the other hand, are not as well suited to a young family. Make sure you have the means and knowledge to care for the breed you choose, too, including a good vet team.
Be prepared to teach your dog
By far the easiest way to ensure a lifetime of happy memories with Fido is to give him the tools for success- and that includes a solid foundation of socialisation and training. Be sure to ask your vet for a recommendation to a good puppy school. While the kids should certainly be part of the process to learn how to handle pup, make sure an adult in the family takes main responsibility for handling the dog while at ‘school’, so they get firm and consistent training.
Teach the children to respect the dog
Begin to teach your children compassion for animals as soon as you can. Even the youngest child is capable of learning how to ‘treat others as they want to be treated’. Make sure they know that behaviours like teasing, taunting, poking and ‘riding’ the dog are unkind and not allowed, so that they can have a lifelong happy relationship with the new addition. Don’t discipline the dog for the children’s bad behaviour, as this will severely impact the way they view your children in the future. As the adult, be sure you watch all pet-child interactions carefully, and be ready to step in and school everyone on the proper behaviour before issues can escalate.
On the day you bring your new bundle home, it’s important to try to keep the kids as calm as possible. Let them know that pup will be scared of the new environment and will need place and time to adapt. If at all possible, it’s always great for the little ones to meet the new addition a few times before homecoming day, so that some of the initial excitement can calm down and pup is familiar with you all. Be sure to ensure that the dog can always find a quiet, calm space to retreat from the children if they become overwhelming. If you have other dogs already, you may want to ensure they meet on neutral territory as well.
With the right care and handling, a dog can be one of the very best decisions you ever make for your family, so it’s worth taking the time and patience to do the introduction right. Remember, if you have any further questions the Ou Kaapse Vet team is always willing to lend a hand.