There’s no doubt about it, children love puppies and there’s nothing better than watching your little one grow up with their very own pet.
I have two young daughters and we’re actually getting a brand new puppy today. The girls are super excited and there has been much discussion over her name, sleeping arrangements, walking routine and dietary requirements. Already our puppy has made a huge impact on our life but – what about when she actually arrives?
The benefits of having a pet dog are enormous and I’m hoping my kids develop a sense of care and responsibility, while building a special bond and lasting friendship. However today there are other issues to consider. Life with little kids is hectic enough. Add a puppy to the mix and things can get a little crazy. But if you take the time to prepare your home and child for the puppy’s arrival, the transition will be a lot smoother for everyone involved.
1. Create the right space
Stair gates are extremely useful to section off your home and contain the puppy in a certain space. We have one installed in the hall so our new puppy will stay in our kitchen/living area rather than the bedrooms. We’ve also been advised to invest in a playpen, a relatively inexpensive purchase that will offer her a quiet place for a little time out. With noisy, excitable tantrum-throwing toddlers, puppies can feel a little overwhelmed. A playpen offers a cosy safe place for the puppy to rest and play, while still allowing her to feel connected to the family.
2. Keep your eyes on both
Both puppies and young children are unpredictable so it’s important to supervise both at all times and intervene early if either are looking worried, frightened or upset. According to animal welfare charity, Blue Cross For Pets, the signs that indicate that your puppy is feeling worried are:
- avoidance, moving away, hiding
- tail tucked under, looking away, appearing ‘smaller’
- lip licking, yawning (when not sleepy), paw raising
- growling, flashing teeth, snapping, biting
Young children can also feel annoyed or upset with playful cheeky puppies, so step in quickly if your child is starting to look at all anxious or frustrated.
3. Gently does it
Generally toddlers love to touch, feel, pull and play with anything and everything and this can be a little too much for a brand new puppy. Blue Cross For Pets advises showing your child how to always interact gently with the puppy, with no pulling, heavy petting, grabbing or sitting on the dog.
Perhaps call to your puppy when you want to give her a pat. If the puppy comes, then you know the time is right. “This is a really simple exercise that young children can carry out (once they are old enough to understand your instruction) and it enables your puppy or dog a choice in the matter too,” is the advice.
4. Stay clear at feeding time
Keep your little ones away from the puppy during her mealtimes. Interaction at this time can make her feel worried, anxious or defensive. I remember when I was a child, our family dog would growl ferociously if any of us approached at her dinner time. She was usually the sweetest dog, but meal times were another matter altogether.
5. Clear away toys
Take care to clear away puppy’s toys and keep them separate from your child’s playthings. Toddlers love to put anything in their mouths so try to avoid them chewing one of the doggie toys. Similarly, tidy away your toddler’s toys as they may not be suitable for the dog to have in her mouth either. My youngest daughter has been snuggling up in our new puppy’s bed and playpen all week, but that will come to an end today. Apart from any hygiene issues, I don’t think the puppy will be too thrilled sharing her private space so soon.
6. Try to stay calm
At the end of the day, despite careful preparation, the situation will probably take on a life of its own. Much like when a new baby comes home. You just have to breathe and go with it. I’ve already had two babies, so I’m sure I can cope with another. We’ve done everything we can to get ready for our newest family member. After that, we’ll have to take each moment as it it comes. As far as my daughters are concerned, they’re already over the moon – fingers crossed it stays that way!