Introducing a new puppy or adult dog to your kids can be one of the most rewarding experiences your family has. However, it is important to be prepared for the responsibility that comes with dog ownership, the logistics of having a dog in your home, and also making sure your kids are ready.
If your kids are older, it can be easier to introduce a dog, but there are still necessary steps to take to ensure everyone in your home is ready.
Also, if you live in an urban area, such as an apartment, keep in mind that you may have to do things a little differently to prepare your home and family for a new dog. For example, rather than taking your dog out in the yard throughout the day, you may be using something like pee pads for training.
If you’re in an urban area, make sure you go ahead and map out dog parks and other dog-friendly places in your neighborhood as well. There are plenty of places you can take your dog to go to the bathroom, exercise and socialize if you know where to look. For example, there are 23 dog parks in Chicago alone.
Beyond the urban considerations, the following are some things to keep in mind as you get your family ready for the arrival of a new dog.
Talk to Your Kids About Their Shared Responsibilities
The idea that your kids will be the full caretakers for your new dog probably isn’t going to come to fruition, no matter how much you hope it will.
However, that doesn’t mean that your kids can’t and shouldn’t share in the responsibilities. One of the biggest benefits of pet ownership for a family is the fact that your kids can be part of it, and it can teach them how to take care of something else beyond themselves.
Create a list of age-appropriate chores for the kids in your home that will be part of taking care of the new dog. Don’t go overboard; keep them fairly limited and simple, especially if your kids are young.
Along with the chores and responsibilities, set up a list of overall house rules that will stay firm once the new dog arrives. Outline where the dog will sleep, where the places are in the house that it can go, and where in the house is off-limits for the puppy.
Show and Tell Your Kids How to Treat the New Dog
Older kids are probably going to have a pretty good understanding of how to treat a dog, but younger kids may have no idea. In the weeks leading up to your new arrival, try to model to them what it looks like to take care of a new dog and how to treat it patiently and kindly.
It’s valuable to teach young kids how to interact with a dog not only for home situations but also for approaching other dogs outside of your home.
Incorporate Kids Into Training
When you’re learning how to train your dog, and once you actually start putting those methods into place, include your kids. If your kids are young, they can start learning simple commands.
For example, they can teach your new dog to come to them if they clap.
Have a Crate Ready
Some families are reluctant to get a crate for their new dog, but it’s actually valuable to have one. It’s not a puppy prison. Most puppies start to view it positively, as long as you don’t frame it as a place they only go when they’re being punished.
Make the crate the personal area where your dog can be for rest and quiet time. Crates are good for housetraining as well.
Your dog isn’t going to stay in a crate all day long, but having him in there sometimes during the day or night is a positive thing.
Finally, if your new dog shows negative behaviors toward your kids at first, such as growling when they approach, don’t punish these behaviors. It’s better to look and listen for the cues of your dog and understand that this is a form of communication. It’s okay for your dog to be uncomfortable at first, especially if it’s not used to children. When your dog is growling, it’s showing you that it’s better to back away and having that kind of warning isn’t a punishable behavior.
Rather than punishing your dog, remain calm but firm. If you feel like your dog has the potential to continue being aggressive even after settling into a new home, then you might want to contact a trainer.