How to Prepare Your Kids for a Dog
It seems like the world’s most natural arrangement – kids and a new dog – but the fact of the matter is that neither group is usually ready for a full-time life together without a bit of training. After all, there is a lot more to a dog in the family than play time in the yard or naps together on the sofa. It takes time to reach these blissful points in life, and this article will steer you towards the best ways to safely introduce a new dog into a home with kids.
Getting Kids Ready
Your kids may have been pleading and begging for a dog for years, and the sight of a new puppy or a full grown dog of their own is likely to make them forget about safety and charge straight into the dog’s awaiting face. This can often lead to disaster if the dog is unused to such attention or to children in general.
So, rule one of dog adoption is to let kids know that the dog is likely to be nervous about people approaching it and crowding it. We suggest that you teach your children what we call the crouch and hand extension technique.
It is simple and safe and requires the adult or child to stand at a reasonable distance from the dog (usually around five or six feet) and to then slowly extend a hand towards the animal while speaking softly. This is a wonderful way to let a dog know that you want to engage or interact, but without becoming a threat or a challenge.
While you can warn them that putting themselves in the direct reach of a dog’s mouth is dangerous, and that they might be too scary for the dog, you have to also explain why a dog feels this way during such times.
For instance, as you teach them the crouch and hand extension technique, tell your children that dogs get scared by too much movement and too many loud noises and that they might bite because they are afraid. Also explain that dogs know that they have collars and leashes connected to them, and sometimes this leads to panic and growling or biting too.
By explaining the “why” of dog reactions to your kids it is going to encourage them to be compassionate, which is one of the best ways to get them to see things from a dog’s perspective.
It also forces kids to understand that the dog might end up as their best buddy, but that there are always boundaries in terms of what a dog does or does not understand. This is something that many younger children just “don’t get” and is why they are most often the ones with bites and injuries from dogs. They don’t comprehend the behaviors or the risks because they don’t have the ability to reason through the dog’s responses. It is imperative that an adult take the time to explain dog psychology before allowing kids to treat the dog as the best friend it is sure to become.