Caring for A New Puppy in A House with Children

Why Puppies Should Never Be Presents

It would be very difficult to find anyone who doesn’t melt at the site of a cute, fluffy puppy, especially if that puppy is friendly and lovable.

why-puppies-shouldOne thing that is easy to forget, especially around the holidays, is that puppies are a lot of responsibility and they do not usually make good pets for children younger than 6 years old.

A young child of 5 or 6, or even younger can help assist you in certain tasks, but there is far too much at stake to turn over the responsibility of a new puppy to a child.

Puppies are very much like young children.  They are impatient, they get super excited, they make messes everywhere and in the beginning, they have problems settling down enough to listen.  This is where it is important for you, as the parent, to start working with the puppy.

Make sure that from the very first day, the proper interaction and training necessary to make your new puppy a well behaved, loving member of your family is carried out.  Parents need to be very aware and accepting of the fact that the care and training of this new puppy will be their responsibility.

Despite the temptation to buy a puppy for a child as a gift or even for another adult, you should restrain yourself from doing this.  As much as a child will love the new puppy, they are not usually old enough to provide the proper care and training that a puppy requires.  If the person you are considering buying a puppy for is an adult, you would need to consider their lifestyle, work schedule, other pets or family members in the home and the financial responsibilities as well.

Purchasing a puppy for someone without knowing their day to day schedule or priorities can result in a very unhappy puppy that is either left alone or in a crate all day or that has to be re-homed.  If you want to buy a puppy for someone, make sure that their lifestyle supports having that new puppy and that they are ready to handle the care and training on a daily basis, long term.  It may ruin the “surprise” factor, but it eliminates an unhappy friend that has to give the puppy away and an unhappy puppy too.

Is A New Puppy The Right Decision For Your Family?

The decision to get a new puppy is one that should be taken very seriously and many things need to be considered before you take the next step of purchasing one. We have listed a few very important questions you should ask yourself before you decide to get a new puppy.

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  • How old are your children? – Babies and toddlers present a different challenge when it comes to getting a new puppy. Parents need to be aware that a new puppy should never be left alone with a baby or toddler.  Even if the puppy seems calm and happy, it’s easy for them to get excited and rambunctious and injure a young one accidentally. Having babies or toddlers doesn’t mean you can’t get a puppy; you just need to be aware of the added supervision that will be very important to the safety and happiness of both the puppy and the child.
  • Where will the puppy be during the day? – One big factor to look at is where the puppy will be during the day.  If one or both parents work at home, the puppy won’t be alone all day, but when both parents work outside the home, a problem could arise. Even if you have children that are babysat in the home while you are at work and the babysitter will also commit to helping with the puppy in addition to watching the children.  A puppy can’t stay in a crate all day long.  It will develop all kinds of behavior problems and training will be very difficult. Leaving them out, or even blocked into one room can be unsafe as well because they will, at some point, attempt to get out.  If they are successful, what you come home to could be a huge disaster of ruined furniture and other items.  You will need to plan for the care of the puppy just like you would your children. There are places that offer daycare for dogs and puppies but taking a super young puppy to a daycare every day can confuse it as to who the owner is and where its home actually is. If the puppy is older, the daycare option could work with care and attention to doing the things that are needed to help the puppy transition from one place to the next.
  • Are you financially able to take care of the puppy’s needs? – Puppies may not be as expensive as babies, but there are many things that your puppy would need and you want to be certain that you are in a financial position to take care of those things.  These financial responsibilities include:
    1. Quality Food (the amount per week will vary according to the breed of the puppy and the rate of growth. Puppies need to eat 3 times a day minimum.)
    2. Food and water dishes
    3. Shots and preventative medical care (worming, flea treatments, heartworm meds, etc)
    4. Leashes and collars
    5. Dog bed
    6. Plenty of dog toys
    7. Dog treats
    8. Crate if you will be crate training the puppy

    While the cost of most of these items individually is not usually too expensive, the cost altogether can add up to be quite a bit, especially the vet bills. Keep in mind also that puppies get shots much like an infant gets theirs and they will need their shots every few weeks until they have had all that is required.

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  • Do you travel a lot? – If you are single and want a puppy, look at your work load and lifestyle.  If you do travel a lot then the puppy will spend a lot of time with other caregivers. If travel is only occasional then using a dog boarding facility once in awhile will not be a problem. Just make sure that the standards of the care facility are in line with your own so the puppy isn’t confused.

Introducing The Puppy to Your Children

Once you have addressed the above questions, you can make a decision as to whether a new puppy fits in with your family, lifestyle and schedule.

Once you have decided to get a puppy, there are certain ways that you should introduce that puppy to the rest of the family; especially other pets and children.

We have listed important tips and strategies to introduce the puppy into your home in a way that keeps everyone happy and safe and excited about being together.

  • Always supervise interaction between the puppy and the child/children until you are certain that they can interact with each other safely and properly. You don’t have to interrupt, just be present and watchful for any problems that may arise.
  • introducing-the-puppy2Make sure that your children understand the limits when it comes to interacting with the puppy. One problem that toddlers and babies can have is grabbing a tail, ear or handful of fur and hanging on. Teach them how to pet the puppy by using a stuffed animal. You can also show the child using touch on their own arm so they understand the gentleness they must have.  If you have a toddler that has recently gotten a new baby brother or sister you can explain to them that petting a puppy is just like dealing with a new baby. They have to touch it gently and carefully.
  • Allow the puppy to check out the children and refrain from letting the children go up to the puppy. This keeps things much calmer and allows the dog to sniff around and get close to them on its own. If the puppy gets too excited and is jumping all over the children, be there to step in and calm the puppy down as well.
  • Children learn so much by example. Show your children how to pet and interact with the puppy and they will model your behavior. You should avoid rough housing, yelling at the puppy or striking it.  Show your child how to interact with animals and they will treat them well all their lives. This will also teach your child how to approach a dog away from home too which increases safety for them.
  • Using indoor voices is very important when it comes to being around puppies and young dogs. High pitched screams and squeals can get the puppy excited and can cause them to jump on the child and be aggressive as well.  Puppies can also be scared by loud sudden noises and this can cause them to lash out in fear.  They don’t have to whisper, but yelling and shrieking are out. (The rest of the family will appreciate this rule as well!)
  • Include the children in the care of the puppy. If the child is much older (10-12) and they want to be responsible for the lion’s share of the care, they are old enough at this age to do so.  Any younger and they should not be expected to be responsible for remembering to feed the dog, check for fresh water and take care of training.  Children 7 or 8 and older can help with filling up the water dish, taking them outside to use the bathroom (in a fenced yard) helping to walk them once they have been shown not to drag the puppy and how to fill their food bowl.  Your assistance and supervision while they are taking care of these tasks is very important for the safety of both the puppy and the child.
  • Teach your children to be patient with the puppy. About 8-10 weeks of age, your new puppy will go through a fear stage.  Make sure that the children understand this and that they give the puppy plenty of reassurance and understanding as they learn new places and activities.
  • introducing-the-puppy3Take the children on your walks with the puppy. It will help teach the child how to walk the puppy properly and safely and will solidify the child as a “master” in the puppy’s eyes. Your puppy should never be treated as if or think that they are above the child in the pecking order. This can lead to real problems later on.
  • Puppies learn just like children do, they learn by doing. Your children can help with a few basic training skills such as coming when called (only have ONE child call the puppy at a time with the right command)  They can also help with sit once you have shown them how to help the puppy learn this.
  • Provide the puppy with a place that is just his or hers. Teach the children that this is not a place for them and that when the puppy is in their safe place they should leave the puppy alone. This safe place can be their bed, the crate or in a bedroom.  If the children are too young to understand the puppy has a no children zone, it is up to you to make sure that the children do not go in those areas. If you are consistent, the children will learn this as they get old enough to distinguish these off limits areas.
  • Allow the children to teach the puppy how to play fetch. This is a fun game for all involved if they teach it the right way. The toy or ball should be gently wiggled in front of the puppy to get their interest and attention and then toss it a couple of feet in front of them. Praise the puppy when it gets the toy and brings it back to the child. Puppies aren’t born knowing how to fetch so be sure to explain to the child that it takes time to learn a skill.

Care Tips For The New Puppy

  1. Make sure that the puppy has a comfortable bed to sleep in. This can be in their crate or in a separate bed. They should never be punished by being sent to the crate or bed. This will teach them to associate it with negative things.
  2. When the puppy is old enough, make sure to get them a flea collar or flea medicine that is age appropriate for them. Keeping fleas under control is very important for the health and well being of the puppy and the rest of the members of the household as well.
  3. Puppies drink a lot of water. You may want to consider an automatic water bowl, especially if you have young children. This will be much better for avoiding spills as well.
  4. care-tips-forMake sure you purchase a collar and leash for the puppy right away. The collar will need to be checked on a regular basis to ensure that it is not getting too tight as the puppy grows. They will not be used to walking on a leash so make sure you give them a chance to get used to it before you allow the child to walk them.
  5. Don’t forget to have dog shampoo on hand for bathing your puppy. Make sure that the product you choose can be used on a puppy the age of yours and don’t give them too many baths or their skin can dry out.
  6. If you need to corral the puppy in one place, consider getting a pet gate or enclosed dog exercise pen. Either of these products is perfect for keeping the puppy where you want him or her to stay. Do not leave them unattended inside the gate or exercise pen so they don’t hurt themselves trying to get out and never leave a child inside the exercise pen with the puppy unattended.
  7. Avoid cheap puppy food. Your puppy grows a lot during the first couple of years of their life so you need a high quality food that provides all the nutrients and vitamins they need. Puppies need both canned and dry food but canned should never be left out on the floor past meal time. Whatever your pup doesn’t eat can be served again at the next meal. They should ideally eat three times a day.