The first meeting
Plan introductions carefully. A puppy that has never come into contact with children before may become overly excited or a bit frightened. And although an older dog with previous owners has a good record with kids, it may react differently to your family.
If possible, let the first introduction happen in your home, as the dog will be more familiar with its surroundings and therefore comfortable. And while grandchildren may be very keen to meet their new play friend, tell them to enter the house quietly and slowly. Lock the dog in another room and once everyone has settled, bring it in. Keep the children calm and let the dog approach them - this will help both parties build up confidence and trust. Put your dog on a lead if any grandchildren are nervous, and don’t let it jump up.
Battersea Dogs & Cats Home stress that it’s important children are taught to respect animals. They should not be allowed to treat them as toys, and children must also learn not to tease, overexcite or bully a dog. Pets need their own space, so your grandchildren should never disturb them, especially when they are eating or sleeping.
Playing and interacting
Not all dogs are the same. Even if your grandchildren are used to dogs, it’ll take time for them to get to know your new pet, and vice versa. Some dogs will be scared of sudden movement or high-pitched noises, and may behave aggressively if it feels under threat.
Explain to your grandchildren that your dog must be handled gently. Not every pet likes being cuddled, so initially your dog may prefer a nice scratch under its chin rather than a squeeze and pat on the head.
Looking after a dog
Having a dog is a great way to teach grandchildren about responsibilities and teach your dog that children are higher up in the social hierarchy. Depending on their age, children should be able to help with training, feeding and cleaning up after the dog. And while a small child can’t be responsible for holding a lead on a walk, he could still fetch it and attach it to the dog’s collar. Get the whole family involved.
Never leave a dog alone with children and keep them well away from babies, even if you’re in the same room. All training and feeding should be done under adult supervision too.
To help your grandchildren understand how to approach a dog safely and learn what to do if they are frightened or knocked down by a dog, see Battersea Dogs & Cats Home ‘Safety around dogs’ leaflet, downloadable at www.battersea.org.uk. It also includes information about a dog’s body language so they will know if it’s angry or scared.
Also look at The Kennel Club’s Safe and Sound website, a fun interactive game that helps children understand how to behave around dogs.