How to introduce your dog to children
A cute Labrador puppy is enjoying cuddles with a young boy.

How to introduce your dog to children

26 January 2023

Reviewed by Dr Jill McMaster BVM&S MBA MRCVS, Veterinary Surgeon and in-house expert at BorrowMyDoggy on 7 June 2023

Dogs are very special members of the family so when it comes to introducing a new member to the pack it can be a daunting time. Whether you’re bringing a new puppy or a new baby home, we have some top tips to help you with the transition and create a happy and safe relationship.

Doggy member Cocoa

Use a lead

When making your first introductions try using a lead to keep your dog under control, this is particularly helpful if anything happens to spook or shock them. Alternatively use known commands like “sit”, “stay” or “wait” and make your introductions slowly. Also try having your child sat down and waiting for their first meet and greet, this is handy if you have a toddler and they’re not quite steady on their feet yet.

Sniff first, pet after

Dogs use their sense of smell to say “hello” and to figure out who you are. So allow your dog to sniff the child first before allowing them to pet them. This is best if your child gentle offer their hand (don't have them push their hand in the dog's face), and for babies try offering their blanket first or a curled fist to ensure they don’t push their hand into the dogs face.

Doggy member Billy

Gently does it

Most children love animals, from cuddly toys to cartoons, they are familiar creatures. But they often do not realise if they’re squeezing or pulling a dog’s fur can unintentionally hurt them. Try to teach them by showing them the correct way to pet a dog and how to be gentle with them.

Keep calm

Try to avoid any loud or sudden movements in the first introduction like big hugs, especially if your pup can spook easy. If your child is going to approach the dog, try to encourage your dog to meet them halfway so they can greet the child on their own terms.

Doggy member Meg

Avoid treats

Some dogs can get very excited at the sight and smell of treats so perhaps avoid giving children treats to give to dogs at a first introduction, as they could snatch or nip at their fingers.

Never leave a child alone with a dog

Even the most well behaved dogs should never be left alone with children. Fur can be pulled, a leg can be stepped on or a pooch can be surprised, so therefore it’s always recommended that an adult is present to supervise and keep a watchful eye.

We hope these top tips help with your first introductions. If you have any concerns or questions try speak to your local vet or the 24/7 Vet Line.

This article is for information only, and should never replace any advice, diagnosis or treatment from your veterinary surgeon. Always contact your local vet or out of hours vet without delay if you have any concerns about your dog.

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