By Savannah Admire

family introduces child to newly adopted pitbull dog
Maria Manco / Stocksy
Adding a new four-legged member to your family can be a big adjustment, especially if your children haven’t lived with a dog before. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to include kids in the pet adoption process and make adopting a new dog a family event.

How to involve kids in the pet adoption process

First, spend time talking to your children about what having a dog in the home will be like, and ask them about their ideas for pet names. Introduce kids to pet parenthood by explaining the responsibilities of caring for a dog. You may even want to encourage them to take care of a stuffed animal by pretending to feed it and play with it as they would a real dog.

When it’s time to go shopping for supplies for your new pet, bring your children along. They can help pick out a collar and leash and even choose a toy to give to the new dog.

How do I explain the idea of adopting a new dog to my children?

Let your kids know that the new dog will be a member of the family and will require time to adjust to your home. Discuss how to behave around and treat the dog, establishing clear boundaries and expectations for children based on their age.

“Before getting your own dog, teach your children how to properly interact with dogs,” says Julie Sinaw, president and founder of Animal Lighthouse Rescue in New York City. “Let your children get used to dogs by visiting friends with dogs or even babysitting a friend’s dog or fostering. When your children are around these dogs, teach them how to move slowly, be gentle, and that the dog should always come up to them first.”

Another great way to teach them more is video games. There are many video games all about dogs for kids that simulates caring for a dog, which can help children understand the many responsibilities involved.

What should my children know about the dog’s needs and care?

Before bringing a new pet into the home, it’s important to explain how to take care of a dog for kids. Encourage children to be gentle with the dog when petting and avoid touching the dog’s eyes, ears, tail, and feet. Also tell them about the warning signs a dog exhibits when they want to be left alone, like snarling and growling, and explain how these behaviors are the dog’s way of saying “no” or “don’t touch me.”

If you are new to pet parenthood, take time to learn about dog behavior and communication with your kids and discuss how you can apply what you’ve learned to your interactions with your pet.

“There are a lot of great books out there to help prepare you and your children,” Sinaw says. “Read them together!”

Once your new pet is home, make sure to supervise your kids anytime they’re around them, and tell them to avoid rough play. Children’s pets can have a huge impact on their self-esteem and empathy, but first kids need to learn how best to interact with them.

Here are a few more tips for teaching your children about caring for a dog:

  • Establish house rules for the dog around discipline and emphasize to your kids that you never use physical punishment.
  • Make sure to notice and reward good behavior from the dog and positive interactions your children have with the new pet.
  • Instruct children to keep toys and clothing picked up so the dog doesn’t chew on these items — and avoid giving the dog any toys that resemble the children’s toys or clothing.
  • Create a role for each child in caring for the pet and develop a schedule of responsibilities.
  • Make sure your dog has their own space in the house where they can escape from everyone, and remind children to leave the pet alone when they’re in this space.

How can I help my children bond with the new dog?

Learning to care for a pet can have an incredibly positive impact on a child’s mental and emotional growth. As children develop bonds with a dog, they can enjoy the many benefits of having pets, such as building self-esteem, learning empathy, and reducing stress. Caring for a dog can also encourage kids to be nurturing and teach them responsibility, helping them grow into more confident adults and offering multiple benefits for pets and families.

Kids should have plenty of opportunities to bond with the new family pet. Help your children establish a relationship with the dog by playing supervised games like fetch, blowing bubbles, or hide and seek. You should also find ways to involve the child in caring for the dog by helping to feed, groom, or even walk your new pet.

Top 10 lessons to teach your kids about a new dog

Keeping both your children and your new dog safe should be your highest priority. Teach your kids how to safely interact with your dog and any dog they meet before bringing a new pet into the home through these lessons:

  1. Always ask an adult’s permission before approaching a dog or petting them.
  2. Respect a dog’s space. Canines can be protective of their property, so do not enter the dog’s area or follow them into their space.
  3. Be wary of other dogs. If you see a loose dog, don’t approach or chase them, especially if the dog is trying to get away from you. Tell your parents, neighbors, and other adults you trust about the loose dog so that they can help.
  4. Never surprise or suddenly stir a sleeping dog. If your dog or someone else’s dog is resting, let them sleep and gently wake them up without scaring them.
  5. Don’t tease dogs with food or toys because this can entice them to use their mouths. Especially don’t tease a dog who is behind a fence or gate and don’t reach in to pet them.
  6. Stay away from any group of strange dogs, and don’t stand in the middle of a bunch of dogs. Steer clear of any fighting that may occur. Please don’t try to break up a fight and instead find the nearest adult to help.
  7. If the dog is eating or chewing on a bone, it’s best to leave them alone. Don’t try to grab the food or toy or even touch the dog at that time. Let the dog enjoy their goodies first, and then you can snuggle with them. Remember that dogs aren’t toys, so there will be times when they don’t feel like playing.
  8. When you meet a new dog or are spending time with a dog you don’t know well, avoid making direct eye contact or staring. Turn your eyes and look from the side to let them know you come in peace. Also, please don’t put your face close to a strange dog’s face. Remember that dogs communicate friendliness by respecting space.
  9. Try not to run, shriek, scream, or make big fusses around dogs you don’t know well. It could make them nervous or afraid, which can affect their behavior toward you.
  10. Last but not least, if you see a stray dog, do not run toward or away from them. Calmly walk to a safe place and try to ignore the dog. Please tell adults immediately and let them handle finding the dog’s family or trying to help them.

FAQs (People Also Ask):

How can I prepare my children for adopting a new dog?

Set clear house rules, establish a pet care schedule, and teach your children how to be gentle with the dog.

How do I explain the idea of adopting a new dog to my children?

Let kids know that the dog will be part of your family and will need time to adjust to their new home.

How can I involve my children in the adoption process?

Talk to your kids about potential names for the new dog and take them with you when shopping for pet supplies.

How can I teach my children to be gentle and respectful toward the new dog?

Explain the proper way to pet a dog and let children practice on a stuffed animal.

What should my children know about the dog’s needs and care?

Discuss how to care for a dog and let children know how they can help with things like feeding, walking, and grooming.

How can I help my children bond with the new dog?

Encourage supervised playtime with the dog and your kids to help them bond and experience the unexpected benefits of having a dog.

References

Before You Adopt Children and Dogs

HSSV Kids and Dogs

Children and Dogs

I Really Want A Dog: An Introduction to Dog Ownership for Children


Savannah Admire is a writer, editor, and pet parent to two dogs and a cat. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing Animal Crossing, or being an obnoxious nerd about her favorite movies and TV shows. She lives in Maryland, where she constantly debates whether or not to get a third dog.