Puppies and Young Children

Last updated: February 26, 2013

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a very cute saint bernard puppy

A young child with a new puppy can be a delightful experience, full of Kodak moments – but there are precautions you should take.

Puppies, just like their human counterparts can be very energetic and sometimes unruly until they are taught manners and begin to mature.

Just like babies, puppies while developing their new teeth often tend to chew everything in sight.

At this time, they are also learning ‘Bite Inhibition’. Bite inhibition is basically just ‘how far’ the pup can go when communication with their mouth, without causing damage.

When in a litter, pups learn ‘bite inhibition’ through play with their littermates. If they bite too hard, the other puppy will yelp and cease to play. It is telling the puppy, “You are too rough and I don’t want to play with you”.

If your puppy is mouthing and biting:

  1. Give them lots of appropriate chew toys, such as Raw Hide Chews, bones and Kongs.
  2. Ice cubes can be given to chew as they are cooling on the gums.
  3. Bonjella Jelly, used for human babies teething, can also be applied to your puppy’s gums.
  4. If your puppy mouths or bites you, yelp loudly like a dog and remove your hands. Cease all play with your puppy and ‘Time Out’ for a few minutes. When you recommence playing, the puppy bites again, repeat the process. The puppy will soon learn, “When I bite hard, the fun games stop”.

NEVER hit or smack puppies, as this can cause fear in a dog and teach them to be hand shy of humans. Tug of war and hand games should be avoided until you can teach your puppy the correct rules.

Jumping up is another problem. Boisterous little puppies can get over excited, especially when children are running around and squealing. Puppies can see this as a great game or become over excited and unintentionally hurt by jumping up and scratching.

From the very start: TEACH YOUR DOG WHAT YOU WANT BEFORE YOU NEED TO TEACH THEM WHAT YOU DON’T WANT.

If you don’t want a puppy or dog jumping up on you, then simply don’t allow them start doing it.

From Day 1, start teaching the “Sit” command – “There is no play until you first sit”. If you want, you can teach the dog to jump up but only when you say so, on command – “Up”.

When we get a cute little puppy, we can inadvertently teach them bad habits, like jumping up, by patting our legs and encouraging the behaviour until we get hurt or the puppy grows too big to handle.

Start off from Day 1 as you want them to be in the future. If you want to allow your puppy on the bed or on furniture, that is fine. But, if when he grows you won’t want this, then don’t let it happen from the beginning. This goes for any potentially annoying behaviours such as begging at the table for food.

Setting clear rules right from the start lets your puppy know exactly what is expected and they will learn faster and be less confused so there will tend to be fewer mistakes.

Supervision

Puppy with children

Sometimes children can accidentally hurt a dog by poking, pulling the fur or tail and climbing on or falling over it.

Dogs communicate with their mouths and if hurt, could communicate this by a bite.

To prevent any unfortunate accidents for both your child and your new puppy – ALWAYS SUPERVISE ALL SITUATIONS WHERE THE TWO ARE INTERACTING TOGETHER.

The friendship , learning and companionship a child and a new puppy form, is a wonderful thing, so parents must ensure it is a happy and safe relationship.

Sometimes parents claim that the reason they have decided to get a puppy is to teach their child how to be responsible. A pet should not be bought to teach a child responsibility, as most small children cannot be fully responsible for their care.

It is ultimately the parent’s responsibility to care for the new puppy and their interactions with children.

Children can help and should be encouraged to participate in the puppy’s daily care routines but the onus of responsibility still lies with the parent.

Sometimes, it may be wiser to wait a few years until the child has grown, before adding a puppy to your household.

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