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Tips for creating a safe and happy bond between your newly adopted dog and children

Supervision is essential when your new dog meets family members for the first time. Careful handling of introductions will set the scene for future interactions and help your dog settle into family life. By taking the right steps in the first few weeks of your dog’s homecoming, you can help create a special bond between your new addition and her non-furry siblings. Here’s how:

  • Even if used to children in the past, a new dog will not be used to yours and will need time to get to know them. Help prevent your dog feeling overwhelmed by insisting the dog approach the children rather than the other way round. This prevents feelings of being under threat and your dog is less likely to snap in self-defence.

  • Teach your children to treat animals with respect. Show them how to approach and touch dogs properly. They must never provoke a dog into growling, barking or lunging.

  • Help children understand canine body language so they can recognize when a dog is friendly, fearful or aggressive.

  • When a child greets a dog, move slowly and offer the dog the back of a hand to sniff before petting. Petting the dog under the chin or on the chest will be less threatening to the dog than petting the top of the head.

  • Children shouldn't encourage a dog to chase them. Quick movements and high-pitched voices can trigger a dog’s attack-and-chase response.


  • Avoid tug-of-war games, as this sets up a competition between child and dog. These games often over-stimulate a dog and can encourage the dog to grab at hands and clothes.


  • Teach children to respect a dog’s privacy. Never allow a child to disturb a dog while eating, chewing on a bone or toy, or sleeping. Dogs are naturally territorial and may growl, snap, or bite to protect their possessions.


  • Tell children not to look a dog directly in the eye. In dog language, a stare is a threat and may trigger the dog to act dominantly or aggressively.


  • Some dogs have a strong herding instinct and may nip at children’s ankles, causing them to squeal and run away. This excites the dog, encouraging more of the same, so this behavior must be stopped at once or it can become a habit. Children have to learn not to tease or bully the dog, and the dog has to learn not to jump up at the children, be too boisterous or nip them in play. It is important to supervise all their activities until both parties have learned the rules. It is not advisable to leave children under the age of ten alone with any dog.


  • Be especially careful with older dogs and children. A dog with impaired vision or hearing may be startled by sudden approaches and may bite in defence. Explain the difficulties the dog is having to the children so they learn to approach more gently.

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