“Children can be relentless with their desire to have a puppy to call their own, trust me I know from experience…I was one of those kids. My parents finally caved when I was in 11th grade. Smart on them, I trained the dog for two years and when I went off for college they had a great little companion. Having a family dog is great; dogs make us better. They marvel in the small wonders of the world, which allows us to sit back and appreciate things more, just like children do. So, the idea to have them both at the same time sounds great, however, it is important to understand that kids and canines require a lot of work on the parent side to ensure a happy home for all.
We have witnessed it first hand more times than we can count. After years of asking for a puppy, parents will cave and get one for their children. The excitement is always there when it is time to bring the pup home. Most parents plan accordingly – they do their research into what breed or breed mix will suit their family best. They purchase what they believe will be the necessities to own a dog. Then they bring the dog into their home. The kids are delighted and want to love the puppy with all their hearts…and this is when the issues begin.
Great intentions can result in bad situations.
Humans, by nature are primates. We hug one another, and children especially have the desire to hug and hold their new adorable puppy. Dogs are not primates. They do not hug one another naturally, and when kids begin to demonstrate this behavior to a new pup, more times than not it is met with puppy biting. Inevitably, a child running away from them when they are hot on their heels will only arouse your pup more. What comes natural to a child, ouch this hurts, make this puppy stop jumping and biting me…I need to run to get away from it, will only elevate the pup’s desire to bite and jump more as this taps into their prey drive.
So I wanted to share a few top tips to adding a puppy to your home when you have younger children. Having your child grow up with a canine companion can be great, but it needs to be stated from the get go that there must be a commitment from all family members to ensure a happy household for all. And A LOT of patience.
- Freedom Must Be Earned, Not Given – humans tend to bring a puppy home and allow it to explore the house right away on their own terms. Puppies mature fast, but they are still only puppies and need to be treated as such. Allowing your new 8 week old puppy free reign of the house is an accident waiting to happen. They can sneak away and pee on your carpet, they can get into the trash, jump (or attempt to) on the furniture, they will counter surf, the list can go on and on but you get the idea – puppies are mischievous. So it is important to keep them tethered to you, a heavy object or in a crate until they understand the rules more. Plus when the puppy begins to bite or nip at your child, you can manage and control this eaiser. Simply step on the leash or have your child back away from the leashes reach.
- Adult Supervision – children have good intentions, but again, they will tend to grab puppies. A child’s hug or frantic grab can turn a confused puppy into a little terror; nipping hard and constantly jumping up and in turns makes your child upset and frustrated. We want your kids involved with the training and bonding, but should be done with the parents around so that you can step in if needed (with tips from point 1).
- Keep A Leash On In The House – this is a crucial step and although we instruct clients to do this, there are many that still don’t. KEEP A LEASH ATTACHED AT ALL TIMES IN THE HOUSE (in the beginning stages). This will elongate your arm by 6 feet so if your puppy begins to play the “catch me if you can game” you will have a much better result in getting your puppy back. As well as help manage their space and jumping/running after/biting your kids.
- Hire A Trainer Who Will Work With Your Kids – there are some trainers out there that will only work with the adults, we believe this is both silly and unrealistic. Your children live in the house with the puppy and want to be a part of it, they just need to be trained in a different way. Trainers who encourage fun training by all family members will have the best results as it caters to your lifestyle.
- Play Freeze Tag – a fun game to play with your children and your puppy is freeze tag. Have all the kids have some treats in their hands and instruct them to run around, which will surely get your puppy going. As soon as you see the pup get close (within 5 feet of the kids) yell “Freeze!” and have the kids stop, whoever is closest to the puppy have them use that high value treat to get the pup to sit. They can release the pup right away and begin running again or have the pup hold the sit for a few seconds, constantly adding more time and distance to the sit/stay. Not only are you having fun with the training for both the puppy and the kids, but you are also teaching the puppy how to control itself when it gets excited and working on your sit/stays. Now that’s a training win!
- Have The Kids Feed The Puppy – puppies like food. Puppies like the person who brings them their food. Thus have the kids feed the puppy. Easy enough.
- Work On Tricks Together – obviously obedience is first and foremost in your training, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on other fun things too. Kids love tricks and it’s also a great way to mentally fatigue your puppy. A tired puppy will be less likely to nip and jump on your children. Plus all training time is bonding time, which will result in a puppy who is eager and enthusiastic to work for all family members.
- Patience Is A Virtue – we understand that you have practiced over and over all of your commands but sometimes your puppy just acts as if they have never heard you utter that word, and this can be frustrating but remember your dog is a dog. They are not a human, and it is incredible that we are already training them at 8 weeks (2 months people…your puppy has been on this Earth for a short time) to understand our language and rules as a society. We don’t expect a human baby to be potty trained until they are 22-30 months of age or begin to understand language between 6-9 months of age, but many are frustrated when their 10 week old puppy doesn’t come when called without offering more direction to allow the pup to understand what is being asked. Have patience, practice your commands often and set your puppy up for success.
- Opt For A Dog – we know the thought of raising a puppy from their youth to old age is enticing, but we must remind you that puppies require A LOT of work. It is like having a newborn in your home again, and families can be busy. With the extra curricular activities your children are in, the two jobs that the parents have and all of life stuff in between ,it can be challenging bringing a new little one into your house successfully. However, there are SO many great older rescue dogs out there that could be a better fit. By opting to adopt an older dog you are not only saving a life, you will have a more mature dog who is out of the puppy biting stage, can hold their bladder longer and may already understand some commands. Always have a meet and greet with your children with any dog or puppy you are interested in to ensure a good fit.
There you have it! Those are my top 9 tips for kids and canines. I hope that this helps you on your journey to add a pup to your family. Trust me, it will change your life for the better as long as you are ready to put in the time to train it as a family. Feel free to subscribe to our YouTube channel for training tutorial videos and follow us on Facebook and Instagram!
Katrina Kensington, Co-Owner KeenDog