Educating children on how to care for a dog

Dogs can provide wonderful companionship for families. however, it’s also important to choose the right dog to introduce to your home, and prepare children for their new puppy’s arrival.
Adult Dachshund lying down in a living room with people behind.

It’s important to choose the right puppy to introduce to your home, and prepare children for their arrival to ensure that both are happy and safe.

Educating your children

Getting a puppy is an extremely exciting time for children, but its important to explain that their new pet is not a toy, and that they need to be careful with their new companion. Introductions can be daunting for a young puppy and negative experiences will have a lasting effect. The socialisation and fear period starts from four weeks and goes up to 14 weeks and any trauma occurring during this time may have lasting, consequences, so it’s important that this is done in a quiet and relaxed environment where children are encouraged to be calm.

To support the process you can:

  • Ask children to sit on the floor and let the puppy to come to them first.
  • Teach children how to handle their new pet by supporting their bodies carefully if they pick them up. The best way is to place one open hand under his/her tummy and supporting its rear end with the other hand.
  • When children do cuddle the puppy, make sure they don’t hold onto them too tightly.

Ensuring your puppy and children are safe

There are a number of things that will help to keep both your puppy and children safe as they grow up together. By reminding children that they have a role to play in their puppy’s development and safety, they can also take ownership of some responsibility.

To avoid any biting and scratches, teach your child:

  • Not to disturb the puppy when he/she is asleep or eating.
  • Not to look him/her straight in the eyes.
  • Not to hold him/her too hard in their arms.
  • Not to give him/ her any food from the table.

Children younger than 10 should not be left alone with the puppy; an adult should always be present when children and puppies play together.

Adult Beagle sitting down on a bed offering a paw to a child while father supervises.

Dog breeds that are good with children

Choosing a breed of dog will be influenced by a number of factors including your lifestyle. Certain breeds are known for particular character and behaviour traits, including their suitability for children, which will also play a part in your decision making process. However, all animals have their own temperaments so this cannot be used as a definitive guideline.

Breeds of dog can be defined as small, medium, large and giant, but just because a dog is small does not necessarily mean it is easier to look after. It is a good idea to consider the general temperament of a breed, as well as its size and energy levels. If you have children with allergies you may also be looking for a hypo-allergenic breed.

Some of the most popular family friendly dog breeds include:

Golden Retriever: Confident, smart, kind, loyal and patient, Retrievers love playing with children, but they do need lots of exercise and outdoor space.

Labrador Retrievers: Known for their sweet temperaments, Labrador Retrievers have been amongst the most popular dog breeds for decades. They need a lot of exercise to prevent weight gain.

Bulldogs: For those looking for a less energetic dog, Bulldogs are loyal and relaxed making them calm companions for families.

Beagles: A breed that thrives on companionship, Beagles are known for their friendly and loveable nature.

Havanese: Extremely loving, Havanese are playful, even-tempered little dogs who are known to be incredibly gentle with children by nature.

Poodles: A hypo-allergenic breed, poodles come in large and miniature sizes and are highly intelligent dogs. They tend to be obedient and responsive, but they do require a lot of grooming.

Dogs can be extremely loving and nurturing members of the family providing great companionship for children. By educating children in the needs of their new pet and their responsibility to care for their dog from the beginning you will maximise the opportunity to create a happy and safe environment for both your new dog and your children.

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Dachshund puppy jumping in black and white on a white background