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Introducing Your Puppy to Your Child

Dog bite prevention training specialist, Lesley Zoromski, is a passionate educator and lifelong dog lover. Since 2003 she has trained thousands of dogs and their owners in addition to helping dozens of local rescue groups and their dogs in need.
Keep interactions positive.
Successful Guidelines to Introducing the New Puppy to your Child

No doubt everyone will be very excited when the new puppy arrives so let’s set everyone up for success!

Combining the fact that children and puppies are easily excited, it is important to set some ground rules to ensure the first introduction goes well. In addition, keep in mind that between 8 and 10 weeks puppies go through a fearful period. The following guidelines will set you up for success.

Here is a great way to start:

Have your child sit quietly on the floor and allow the puppy to make the first approach – not the other way around. Enabling your puppy to meet your child on its terms is a great way to form a strong bond of trust between the two from the beginning.

This can be very hard for children to understand. They can get excited when they see a dog and want to rush up and start petting or handling it. Puppies can get overwhelmed in their new environment and for the first time when meeting new people.

If the puppy decides to walk away, do not allow your child to pursue the puppy.

If the puppy doesn’t initially go to your child have her gently clap her hands and softly call the puppy’s name. Usually, this will encourage the puppy to approach.  As soon as the puppy reaches your child have her give one tiny piece of kibble and say “Good dog”. This not only conditions the dog for recall but also conditions the child the proper way to call a dog.  

Teach your child that the puppy needs “zones of space”. You can also refer to these as “no-go” spaces. This is important to establish boundaries for the puppy. A “no-go” space would be the puppy’s crate.  Zones of space would be when the puppy is sleeping or eating.

Since children do not know the proper way to pick up a puppy, have a rule that they can hold the puppy if they are sitting. Although we hug to show affection in our human world, this is not something that dogs do naturally. Depending on your dog’s personality, over time they may tolerate this from some people. More likely they will prefer to communicate by sitting side to side not face to face. Discourage face-to-face staring.  This can be very intimidating to a puppy or they can view it as a challenge and decide to nip your child’s face. 

Nurturing a Bond That Lasts

Have your child help you take care of the puppy. Even the youngest of children can help put food in the dog bowl and place it on the floor. You can also ask them to help you keep an eye on the water bowl to be sure it is always fresh and clean.

Games to Play and Not to Play

Keep plenty of toys handy to go through the teething period. You can also start games of fetch and Hide Seek. To learn introduce and play, visit my post on “Games and Activites”

Teaching simple commands such as “right here” or “come” will give the child and puppy a way to focus their attention.

Simple tricks will keep everyone happy besides continuing to build a stronger bond. I like to use the Puppr app which has plenty of free tricks and commands to start.

Games such as chasing and wrestling should be discouraged. It will only encourage jumping up or grabbing onto the child with those nippy teeth.


Go slow and remember everything is brand new to your puppy so practice kindness and patience.

Mostly, enjoy the new addition to your family!

Help Protect Your Child with "Stop, Look & Paws"

Our Dog and Child Safety Activity Kit

Stop, Look & Paws is an interactive dog body language learning activity that is a fun way to learn dog/child safety. Whether the children in your life own a dog or just comes into in contact with dogs, Stop, Look & Paws is a valuable resource for any family. (That is because over half of the nearly 5 million annual dog bites are to children. Research shows a key contributing factor is children not understanding dog body language.)

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