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How to Safely Introduce Young Children to Dogs: Few things are more heartwarming than watching a young child run and play with a beloved family dog. Those delighted giggles and happy barks are utterly priceless. 

However, there are several important safety precautions to take when introducing young kids to new or unfamiliar dogs, and it’s vital for adults to monitor child-puppy playtime closely and intervene whenever necessary.

Are you considering adding a canine companion to your family? Wondering how best to introduce your toddler to Aunt Margot’s old Labrador? Here are some tips for supervising your young child’s interactions with dogs to avoid discomfort or injury.

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Keep a Safe Distance from the Dog’s Face

Many children have the impulse to put their face right up next to a dog’s face. This impulse should be curbed as quickly as possible since many dogs view such posture as a threat. According to Bakersfield dog bite attorney Richard Patterson, nearly 50% of all dog bite cases involving children include injuries to the child’s neck or face.

Many toddlers and young children will find themselves at eye level with an average-sized dog, so it’s very important to teach them to keep a respectful distance, especially from new or unfamiliar dogs. Teach children to ask before petting a stranger’s dog, and make sure they know to reach their hands out for the pup to sniff before touching the animal’s head or body.

Introduce Young Children to Dogs

Cultivate a Basic Understanding of Canine Body Language

To feel confident introducing your young child to dogs, you need to have a solid grasp of dog behavior yourself. Here are some signs a pooch might be feeling uncomfortable, potentially leading to aggressive or defensive behavior:

  • Ears flat against the skull
  • Licking the nose
  • Cowering or retreating from you or your child
  • Growling
  • Raised hackles (the fur between the shoulder blades)

Brush up on these and other tips from experts for determining whether a dog is relaxed or stressed out. You should also trust your instincts; if you feel unsettled by a pup’s behavior or body language, err on the side of caution and keep your child away.

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Encourage Slow, Quiet Movements

It’s a fact: most human children are loud, frenetic, unpredictable creatures. Young toddlers are infamous for their seemingly random, ear-splitting screeches, and even older children sometimes get the zoomies. The thing is, many dogs feel triggered by sudden movement, and sudden loud noises can set even the most patient pooch’s nerves a-tingling. How to Safely Introduce Young Children to Dogs 11

When you talk to your children about interacting with dogs, make sure to emphasize the need for soft, gentle speech and slow, deliberate motions. Have your little one practice petting a pillow or a stuffed animal before they touch a real live puppy. Make sure they understand that dogs are sensitive creatures who need to be treated with care.

If your kid gets too excited and turns their hand down swiftly on a dog’s back or head, don’t panic; overreacting might further startle the dog. Just calmly gather up your little one, bring them to a safe distance, explain what went wrong, and go over the slow, gentle petting motion with them again until they understand. 

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The Bottom Line

There’s a reason why countless books and movies have been created about the unique bond between children and dogs. When fostered with care and intention, the love kids and puppies share is unlike any other experience in the world. Before bringing a canine companion into a house with young children, talk to a veterinarian and a licensed dog trainer about what to expect and how to integrate your new pup into your family safely.


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