First Impressions: Dogs & Kids
4 Tips on how to introduce your kids to your new dog & 4 Tips on how to introduce your dog to your new dog
So you’ve matched with the perfect rescue dog on How I Met My Dog. You already know that he or she is suited to your lifestyle and personality and you’re excited to bring your new family member home. How do you help facilitate the best possible experience for your new dog when meeting other family members – two legged and four? Follow these tips on first impressions. If you do, you will set your new dog (and your family) up for success.
When meeting another dog:
Dogs need to express themselves freely in their own language so a little slobber and noise—if you’re a dog—is usually a good sign.
- Find neutral ground. Set up a neutral meeting place beforehand. Chose a space that is public but quiet and that neither dog considers his or her own territory.
- Go for a walk. Then go for a brisk, side-by-side walk. This gives the dogs a chance to focus on the task of walking forward while safely sizing each other up. Then let the dogs meet with lots of slack in their leashes so they can communicate freely.
- Meet “semi”-off leash. If both dogs seem somewhat comfortable with each other, go to a fenced-in area to allow the dogs to meet “semi” off-leash. (Do NOT use retractable leashes). Rather than snapping the leashes off altogether, drop the leashes so the dogs can communicate freely but you can still regain control if necessary.
- Try not to interfere. As much as you would like to be in the middle of this first exchange, your dog(s) are far less likely to get into a scuffle if you stand back and let them speak their own language without interference.
Want to learn more about the way dog’s play? Check out our article Play Pals: Understanding How and Why our Dogs Play.
When meeting kids:
Dogs that are comfortable with children will seek them out. Even if it’s a bit of a waiting game, given the chance, the dog will come to them. Depending on their ages of your children, adjust your own expectations and give the kids instructions.
- Manage Expectations. Explain that, to the dog, they are strangers and the dog has no idea that they will be his/her new family.
- Bring a book from home. Let each of your children chose a favorite book to read to the dog.
- Wait. Once in the same room as the dog, direct the kids to initially sit in a chair so the dog can walk up to them, if and when comfortable. Ask them to read their book – out loud. This helps the child focus on the book instead of the dog, and it helps the dog become comfortable with your child.
- No Hugging. Explain that a hug to a dog does not mean I like you, like it does to humans. It’s scary and a challenge that most dogs will try to run from so hugging is absolutely off-limits.
Feel free to also use these tips when introducing your dog to strangers, your children’s friends or neighborhood dogs. Ensuring that your new dog has time to familiarize themself with new people and new dogs in a neutral, non-threatening way is the key to making not only a good first impression, but a long-lasting one as well.
When relocating a dog from a rural or suburban environment to an urban environment, several short walks a day will help your dog adjust to the sights and sounds of his/her new surroundings.