This can be a wonderful combination. Dogs have been proven to have many positive influences on children; however, common sense and some ground rules need to be applied.

WHEN YOUR DOG ARRIVES CHILDREN SHOULD NOT CHASE DOGS OR APPROACH THEM. LET THE DOG WORK AT IT’S OWN PACE.

You should ask your children to sit down calmly and wait for your new arrival to approach and explore. Have treats to hand to reward good behaviour; initially, children should not hand-feed treats to new dogs in case they try to snatch but throwing them to the dog is ok. After a few days, once you are comfortable that you are getting to know your dog, you’ll be able to tell what your child should and shouldn’t do. The most important thing is to start slowly and work up.

Do not let children or anyone approach a dog from behind or pat them directly on the head. When the dog approaches, children should be encouraged to move slowly and ensure their hands are in view of the dog. Offering an open hand to a dog is a great way to tell how they’re feeling as they will sniff if they’re ok with it or recoil if they are not. Be led by the dog and teach your children to do the same.

Ask your children to speak calmly and quietly to help the dog feel at ease around them, this will also help them get to know your children. Tell them not to scream or be loud around dogs, especially dogs that are new to you or unknown to you. 

Phoebe, adopted March 2020

Don’t let children engage in rough play with any dogs as this can lead to aggressive or rough behaviour and is an accident waiting to happen.  Ensure children do not take toys, food or bones away from a dog. If your dog has a toy or item they shouldn’t have, an adult should remove this, never encourage a child to take anything from a dog. Keep children’s and dog toys separate. Be cautious when children are playing with their own toys! 

Always ensure dogs are fed separately from children and adults. Place their food in a separate room and leave them alone to eat

TIP: If you need to take something off your dog and you are worried, the best way to do it is to swap it for something higher value, such as ham or a hot dog. Tell the dog to “drop it” or “leave it” and when they do, put your foot over it and reward them with the treat.

TIP: Training can be very effective here. Teach the dog to sit and wait before you place the food down. This will teach them not to steal as well as ensuring they don’t snap for food when it is placed. Start slowly, ask them to sit and then put the bowl down, then work up to different lengths of wait.

Dogs should not be interrupted by children (or in fact by anyone) whilst eating. Dogs should be separated when eating. NEVER allow other pets, children or adults to approach a dog whilst eating. Your new arrival may have had to fight for food in a shelter and will not know that you won’t try to take their food away.

Be aware of the signs your dog is uncomfortable with contact or play, dogs display subtle changes in their behaviour when they are not happy. Watch out for these signs:

  • Panting or heavy breathing
  • Abnormal or increased drooling
  • Ears back or down
  • Head bowed
  • Tail between legs
  • Pacing
  • Seeing the whites in their eyes or dilated pupils
  • Dog standing by an exit or door
  • Freezing
  • Rolling over and exposing tummy

Should you notice any of the above, alone or a combination of, ask everyone to give the dog some space to let them settle. Long eye contact can be misconstrued as a challenge and therefore, averting your gaze and offering an open hand for the dog to sniff will likely gain trust sooner.

Hugging or kissing a dog can be very uncomfortable and overwhelming for them as they don’t understand the intention. Dogs can feel very threatened and vulnerable when their necks are embraced or when people get too close to their face. They may have been beaten or abused and it is important to remind your child that this doesn’t mean they can’t ever hug or kiss their new friend, just that they have to prove they mean no harm first. The quickest way they can show love is by giving the dog space to trust and relax.

TIP: This is again where crate training is very effective! Provide a safe place for the dog to sleep using crates and safety gates. Dim lighting and soft radio music can help them settle 

Ensure no one touches the dog whilst it’s sleeping, it may be startled and nip out of fear. If you need to wake your dog, use your voice so you don’t startle it them Always ensure children do not have access to the dog without your supervision. Crates and safety gates are exceptionally helpful to avoid this.

NEVER LEAVE DOGS AND CHILDREN ALONE UNSUPERVISED! PRECAUTIONS MUST BE TAKEN FOR THE WELFARE OF BOTH THE DOG AND THE CHILDREN!

As much as we understand the excitement around getting a new dog or puppy, please ensure your child is aware a dog is not a toy for a child’s amusement. Owning a dog can be an amazing experience for children, teaching them empathy and responsibility. Before your new dog arrives please sit down with your children and go over some ground rules based on the above. Always reinforce this to ensure they know how to approach dogs and be around them.