Adopting a dog has many plusses. Among them is that you’re giving a critter a forever home, and you’re teaching your child about living with an animal and the responsibility it requires. But adding a dog to your family also requires a lot of planning and training — both for the pet and the people! Here are some things to consider before adding a dog to your family.
Don’t Plan on the Kids Being the Responsible Party
It’s easy to think that your kids are old enough to take care of a dog. They are getting older and becoming more mature, so feeding, watering and cleaning up after a pet shouldn’t be that big of a deal, right? Although kids certainly can learn to care for a pet, adult supervision should always be required — particularly in the beginning. Adults should supervise when kids are hanging out with a new pet at home. Plus, adults should always be there when kids are interacting with the dog and learning how to properly care for the pet, too.
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Teach Kids About Animal Behavior
Your dog can’t talk to you, but they can certainly convey how they’re feeling. As a family, learn your pet’s body language and respond accordingly. Are they trying to move away and need some space? Are they asking to play? Dog body language can range anywhere from ears perking up or tails wagging, and everyone needs to understand what the other is saying.
Choose Breed and Age Known to Work Well with Kids
The breed and age of a dog can make a big difference when bringing an adopted animal into a family home. Older dogs tend to be less patient and may have experiences in their past that make them leery or even hostile toward children. Dogs around the age of 2 are typically recommended for homes with small children. Reactive dogs tend to be more aggressive toward children, so experts recommend a smaller or less reactive dog for young families. For example, a Yorkshire Terrier might nip at a child but isn’t going to do the same damage that a German Shepherd would. Before selecting a dog, research the breeds that are known to work well with children.
Teach Safety and Patience
Just like bringing home a new baby, everyone needs a chance to adjust … pet included. Be sure to never leave the children unattended with a new pet, and be prepared to give everyone a little extra space as they learn about each other, how to communicate, and the personality of their new furry friend.