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Socialization and Children

Image353493Parents have an obligation to monitor all child-dog interaction until both child and dog have learned to play nicely together. There will be times when you will have to protect the pup from children and vice-versa. Puppies and children should never be left unsupervised. Although they often have an affinity for one another and form very strong bonds, it is still a good idea to keep an eye on them when they are together. Left unsupervised, a puppy may bite a child in self-defense. Without supervision, it is difficult to know who did what to who. Children are often unknowingly unkind to animals, and the puppy is wrongly blamed for his response to the unkindness. Children off want to pick puppies up and could accidentally drop and hurt the pup. If the pup experiences unpleasant events with children, as an adult, he may very well resent children. Encourage children to think of the puppy as a sensitive, living thing, with needs and desires. It is not a TOY!

For the initial introductions, ask your child to approach the puppy from the side, never straight toward the new puppy. Ask your child to stop about three feet away from the puppy and extend one hand out to the puppy with the palm down. Teach your child by example, show them how to do it. Allow the puppy to come up to sniff the extended hand. Once your puppy stands next to your child, the child can begin to pet the puppy on his side. If the puppy backs away, do not force the interaction. Give the puppy the time it needs to feel comfortable about your child. If your child is really little (less than 5 years old), I usually suggest having your child sit on the floor next to you so that you can both pet the puppy. Your calm presence will be positive for your child and the puppy. Don't drag or pull the puppy towards the child. Have treats ready, in case your pup does not readily come to the two of you, so that you may lure him towards you with treats. Treating your puppy with your child will teach him that good things come from you and little people.

When your puppy and child come together, explain and enforce the importance of petting the puppy gently and speak softly. During the early stages of developing a relationship it is important that your child learn to pet the puppy on their side or under their chin, not on top of the head. Some pups may be head shy and petting on the head can be interrupted as an aggressive movement by your pup. Once the pup becomes more comfortable and confident with your child, pats on the head can be added if the puppy does not shy away. If you have more than one child, I would recommend introducing the puppy to one child at a time so not to overwhelm the pup. Another neat trick is to have the children sit on the floor in a large circle and put the puppy in the middle, allow the pup to wander from child to child. Instruct the children to not try to grab or hold on to the pup. Each child can have little treats to give the pup when he comes to them.