Kids and puppies in the same household sounds like the perfect match. Kids love puppies and talk their parents into bringing one home. Puppies love kids and their energy levels can be a good match for each other.
However, the reality is that while kids and puppies can have a lot of fun together, there is also the potential for problems. Playing with a puppy sounds like a lot of fun. And it is, at least until those razor sharp puppy teeth make contact with a child’s skin. Young kids often do not understand that the puppy is not trying to hurt them, and some kids will become afraid of the puppy. On the flip side, some kids play too rough with puppies, and the puppy is the one who becomes afraid of the child.
There are some steps that can be taken to help reduce problems. The first step is making sure that puppies and kids are always supervised by an adult. This is critical for young children but also a good idea even with older kids until puppies and kids get better acquainted and learn how to interact with each other appropriately. Supervision does not mean simply being nearby; it means that an adult is closely monitoring interactions and stepping in before problems develop.
The next step is to make sure both kids and puppies learn appropriate ways to interact. While kids and puppies love to play together, both of them need to learn what appropriate play is and is not. Wrestling is usually NOT a good idea. Playing tug-of-war or fetch can be great, but the proper rules need to be established. Kids and puppies love chase games, but they need to be done properly. All games have rules, and rules for games between kids and dogs are especially important.
In addition, kids and dogs need to learn other ways to interact besides play. Just as important for both of them is learning how to be calm around each other. One of the problems that occurs between kids and dogs is arousal or excitement levels can easily escalate too high.
For children who are old enough, having them take part in the care and training of a puppy can make a huge difference. Kids should take part in some aspects of feeding, cleaning up after, grooming, training and walking the puppy. Not only does this help kids learn how to take responsibility, but it also gives puppies a chance to learn that these smaller people in the household also need to be listened to, which is a challenge for many puppies.
When it comes to feeding, training and other activities, close adult supervision is needed to ensure both children and puppies are learning to interact appropriately. Watch for any potential signs of problems, such as a puppy growling when a child tries to pick up a toy or walks near the food bowl. If you see any potential signs of a problem brewing, it should be addressed right away and in an appropriate way. If allowed to escalate or handled inappropriately, serious problems can develop.
Kids and puppies can be a great combination but it does take some work to make sure it all turns out well!