Introducing dogs and children

The introduction of a new 'pack member' can be a baffling time for your dog but there are lots of steps that you can take, both before the arrival of your new baby, and when you bring it home, which will help to ease the transition and make the relationship a happy and safe one. Click here for more information, brought to you by the KCET.

Bringing a puppy into the family home?

A dog can be a wonderful addition to your family, but it is important to do your research first. If you have a baby it is well worth considering waiting until your child is a little older and you have the time to dedicate to your new puppy. If you have the time to ensure that you can train, exercise, groom and give attention to your new pup then it is important to ensure that you choose the right breed to fit your family's lifestyle. The KCET has lots of advice to help you make the right decision.

Before the baby arrives

1) Make sure that your dog is well trained - he should know to not jump up and should respond to basic obedience commands such as 'sit', 'stay' and 'come', whilst also knowing and understanding the word 'no'. If your dog has not mastered basic obedience, the Kennel Club runs Good Citizen Dog Training Classes throughout the country. If you dog has behaviour issues, seek training advice from a Kennel Club Accredited Instructor.

2) Get your dog used to the routine he will experience when the baby arrives - that might mean getting him used to being alone for short periods of time while you are in another room or out of the house.

3) Get your dog used to unfamiliar objects that will come with the baby's arrival - this might include getting him used to walking well next to a pram, and seeing the cot, playpen and baby toys indoors and learning that they are not his.

4) If there are areas of the house that will be out of bounds when the baby arrives, put this in place long before you bring baby home - you don't want your dog associating the baby's arrival with the removal of privileges that he used to enjoy.

5) Ensure that your dog's worming, vaccinations and flea treatments are all up to date.

When baby arrives

1) When bringing the baby home from hospital, mum should greet the dog first as he will be delighted to see her after she's been away, while dad brings in the baby calmly afterwards.

2) Include, don't exclude - Reward your dog for approaching the baby calmly and gently. Don't shout at him for getting it wrong or for trying to get your attention, gently show him the right way to behave.

3) Teach your dog to stay behind a baby gate or in a crate, encouraging him with treats and praise. This will keep him away from the baby but he will still be able to see what is going on. If you can teach this before the baby arrives that will make the transition much easier.

4) Keep your dog busy with interactive toys like a stuffed Kong while you are busy with the baby.

5) Your dog will still need plenty of exercise and interaction to stop him getting bored and frustrated.

6) Never, ever leave dog and baby alone together.

7) As the baby grows, it is important to know how to behave around dogs. The Kennel Club has an interactive Safe and Sound game online, which teaches children the correct way to behave around dogs in different scenarios, so that safety is never compromised.

8) If you want to get a dog once your baby is home, make sure you research the right breed for you and ensure that you have the time to dedicate to it.

Helping your children learn how to behave around dogs.

Doggie dos and don'ts

Living with dogs enriches children's lives. Taking care of a dog is an excellent way of teaching a child to take responsibility, express empathy, get some exercise and to have fun. Dogs can also significantly help to raise their self-esteem. But it is the responsibility of adults to make sure that these valuable child/dog relationships are nurtured so that one understands the other. Sadly, dog bites can and do occur in the family home but in most cases these are easily avoidable if the correct steps are taken in the first place. You will find a list of doggie dos and don'ts to teach your children here.

Safe and Sound

The KCET supports the Kennel Club's Safe and Sound initiative, which helps to ensure dogs and children have a safe and happy relationship. The Safe and Sound website includes an online interactive game that helps children to understand how to behave around dogs in certain situations, to help avoid incidents occurring.

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