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How to Introduce a New Puppy to Children

How to Introduce a New Puppy to Children

There’s nothing better than seeing a child bond with their puppy. Just like our kids, dogs are members of the family, and it’s so special to experience your puppy and child growing up together.

 Puppies and kids can become best friends —  if introduced properly. If you’re considering getting a puppy — or are expecting a baby — you might be wondering how to lay the foundation for a successful puppy/child relationship. 

We’ve put together this helpful guide for how to introduce a new puppy to your baby or kid(s) — including the initial steps you should take to set the stage for a loving, life-changing friendship.

Introducing Kids and Puppies

If you’re planning on getting a new puppy and have a young child, you’ll first need to educate your kid on how to approach dogs with care, and respect their boundaries. 

Put yourself in your puppy’s shoes (or paws): children are small, and can be loud or make sudden movements — all of which could intimidate or frighten a puppy.

Because puppies are so cute and cuddly, your child may associate them with a stuffed animal or teddy bear — squeezing or poking your puppy, or chasing them around the house. 

It’s important to teach your child from the very start that your puppy is a living, sensitive creature who can feel scared, worried, or uncomfortable sometimes — just like people do. Encourage them to be gentle, and always treat your puppy with care. 

Learning Dog Body Language

When children are very young, they often don’t have the skills to identify when a puppy is feeling scared or uncomfortable. They might struggle to identify your puppy’s body language, and won’t understand when they need some space.

As a parent and potential dog owner, it’s important that you learn how to read dog body language so that you can tell when a dog is feeling worried or uncomfortable. This will help you prevent misunderstandings or accidents from happening between your kid and your puppy, or with other dogs.

Read on to learn how to identify the signs of an anxious or fearful dog. 

Signs of an Anxious Dog

When a child gets bit by a puppy or dog, it usually isn’t because the parent wasn’t present. Most often, it’s because the parent didn’t know the signs of an anxious dog. 

If your child is very young, they probably won’t be able to spot these signs on their own — so it’s important that you can. In doing so, you’ll be able to prevent your puppy from becoming overwhelmed, and potentially getting defensive towards your child.

When your child is interacting with puppies or dogs, look out for these signs of an anxious pup:

  • Yawning
  • Licking their lips or nose
  • Showing the whites of their eyes (this is sometimes called “whale eye”)
  • Holding or pinning their ears back
  • Looking away from whoever is touching them, or trying to walk away

Before your child approaches any dog, it’s very important to explain to them that they should never poke, squeeze, or pull on dogs, and that they should use a quiet voice. It’s also a good idea to tell your child to never wake a sleeping pup, as this may startle the dog and cause them to act out.

Prepping Your Child

Before bringing home your new pup, get together with your family and set some basic house rules. This way, you’ll help your child to understand what’s expected of them when their new pet/best friend arrives.

When having this conversation, we recommend clearly explaining the behaviors and actions that you would like your child to follow, as opposed to simply telling them what not to do. This will help your child better understand your expectations, and give them more context as to why they’re being asked to follow these rules.

Here are a few examples:

Instead of saying, “No shouting around the puppy,” set a rule for, “Quiet voices only around the puppy, otherwise you might scare them.”

Instead of, “Don’t grab or chase the puppy,” explain, “Gently pet the puppy, and only when they come to you.” This will help your child learn to respect the pup’s boundaries and build mutual trust faster.

Instead of, “Don’t wake the puppy when they’re napping in their crate,” gently let your child know that, “When the puppy’s asleep, it’s time to [insert your child’s favorite activity here].” Having a safe space for your puppy to rest is vital — but telling your child to not go there and bother them might make it even more enticing for them. Give your kid a fun alternative instead.

We recommend practicing these rules with your child even before the new puppy arrives. This will help prepare your child and build their excitement for the new puppy (your new pup will thank you later, too).

Steps to Introduce Puppies and Children

Puppies usually spend their early days around adult humans — either at the rescue or shelter, or at their breeder’s house. So when a puppy encounters a child for the first time they think, “Who is this? They don’t look like what I’m used to!”

Children look differently, move differently, sound differently, and even smell differently than adults. All of this can feel very intimidating for your puppy, who is a baby themselves.

Trust is the foundation for any successful relationship, so it’s important that you take the proper steps for how to introduce a new puppy to your child and build trust between the two.

First, remember to encourage your child to be calm and gentle when approaching the puppy. Make sure that your child isn’t carrying a toy or eating anything during the initial meeting — this might distract the puppy and cause them to jump, startling your child.

If possible, have two adults present at the first introduction. This allows one adult to focus on the puppy, while the other can keep an eye on your child. If you have multiple children, it can be less overwhelming — especially for the pup — if introductions are limited to one or two kids at a time.

Follow these tips for introducing puppies and kids for the first time:

  • Find a space in the center of the room, where the puppy doesn’t feel cornered and can easily get some space if they need to.
  • Have your child calmly approach from the side. They can meet the puppy halfway, then let the pup come the rest of the way in their own time. You don’t want your puppy to feel like they’re being forced into a situation or interaction.
  • Let the puppy explore and sniff your child (this gives them a chance to realize that your kid is just like an adult human, only smaller).
  • Once the puppy and child are comfortable, let your child extend the back of their hand, with their fingers curled in, for your puppy to smell. This position feels less threatening for the puppy, and also means that your child’s fingers will be out chewing range for the excited (and potentially teething) pup!
  • If your puppy enjoys that interaction, allow your child to gently pet the puppy’s head and neck — avoiding sensitive areas like their ears, tail, feet and stomach. 
  • If either the puppy or your child get over-excited at any point during this process, use baby gates or a crate/playpen to separate them until they’re more relaxed.

Keeping initial introductions low-key and fully-supervised allows both the puppy and child to gain confidence in each other — starting their relationship off on the right foot. 

If your child is old enough, you can later encourage them to help with dog walking, grooming, and training as the puppy. This will help grow the bond that you laid the groundwork for at this initial meeting.

Dogs, Kids, and Consent

To help keep your child safe around dogs (and turn them into a lifelong dog lover) it’s important to teach them about consent. Simply put: Don’t touch a dog that doesn’t want to be touched. 

So often, we interact with dogs without considering if we have their consent (or even questioning if we need it in the first place) — and that’s not okay! Dogs have limited ways to indicate their lack of consent — and one of them (biting) can hurt your kid. Teaching your child about consent can help them build trust in your new puppy (and dogs in general), and vice versa.

First of all, teach your child that they shouldn’t approach strange dogs — even if the owner says it’s okay. They know not to approach strange people — it’s the same thing with dogs they don’t know!

In situations with your own puppy, or the dogs of your friends and family, teach your child to only touch a dog if they seem relaxed and comfortable. An easy way to determine this is if the pup approaches your kid to solicit attention — not the other way around. If the dog is seeking your child out, it’s a clear sign that they feel comfortable. 

When letting your child interact with a new dog, make sure that the dog is unrestrained, so they don’t feel trapped and can get some space if needed. Keep interactions low key and quiet. Don’t let your child pet or touch the dog for more than 5 seconds (this will allow you to feel out the initial interaction and if it’s okay to continue).


If the pup backs away or leaves, then your child doesn’t have their consent to keep petting them. Conversely, if they rub against your kid’s hand, paw at them or the air, or push up against them — these signs are all puppy language for “more pets, please!” Feel free to carry on for another 5 seconds. Keep repeating this process — remember, a dog’s consent can be withdrawn at any time.

By teaching your child this simple skill, the vast majority of dog bites can be prevented (plus, you’ll build mutual trust between your child and dog).

How to Introduce a Dog to a Baby

If you’re expecting, it’s tough to predict how your puppy or dog might react to your new little bundle of joy. Bringing a new baby into the house will be a huge change for both you and your pup — they’re used to getting all of your attention, and may not understand why things have suddenly changed! 

Read on for how to properly introduce your puppy or dog to a new baby (and don’t forget to give your pup some extra love throughout this big transition, too).

Preparing your Dog for a New Baby

Adding a new baby to the family is exciting, overwhelming, and literally life-changing. As you prepare for your new arrival, be sure to prepare your puppy or dog, too. The following tips can help make the experience go smoother — for both you and your original baby (your dog).


Set Up Baby Gates

Place baby gates in doorways, so your pup can get used to not following you everywhere throughout the house. Leave them with a toy or treat to keep them occupied while you’re in the other room (Jinx Training Treats are great for this).

Baby gates will help your puppy or dog get used to seeing the new baby from a safe distance, without feeling shut away or ignored. That way, they’ll still be able to see what’s going on with you, and keep an eye on where you’re at in the house.

Set Up a Crate

If your pup is crate trained, you may consider setting up a large crate for them to hang out in while you’re caring for the baby in the same room. This way, you can focus on the baby, but your dog can feel included, too. You can even practice doing this before the baby comes.

Gradually Adjust Your Dog’s Routine

Dogs thrive on routine — so bringing a new baby into the house can definitely shake things up. Gradually get your dog used to a baby-focused routine (catered around your baby’s potential feeding and sleeping times) even before the birth. Introduce them to objects and experiences that come with a baby — like you walking with a stroller — early on, so they’re not overexcited or scared when they see you doing these things with the baby later. Practice as much as you can before you have to do it for real (you’ll obviously have lots of other things to focus on once the baby comes!).

Refresh Your Pup’s Training

In the months before you bring your baby home, remind your pup of basic training cues like no jumping on people and sitting for a reward (these will be very important once you’re carrying a baby around the house). If you need help with training, consider contacting a dog trainer or behaviorist before the baby arrives.

Get Them Used to Baby Sounds

Introduce your dog to the sound of a baby crying, so they can get used to this new noise. You can use YouTube videos to do this — gradually increasing the volume and length of the sound over time as your pal gets more comfortable with it.

After Your Baby's Born

Next, we’ll help you prepare for your dog meeting a baby for the first time. Get your canine companion used to their new family member with these helpful tips.

Get Your Dog Used to Your Baby’s Smell

Before introducing your fur baby and your human baby, let your pup smell something of the baby’s (like a blanket from the hospital). This allows them to get used to the baby’s smell before actually meeting them.

Make Time for Your Pup

Difficult as it can be, make sure your pup still gets the attention they need — and plenty of “dog time” in the forms of walks and playtime.

Behavioral problems like chewing or barking can come up if your pup feels neglected, bored, frustrated, or under-exercised — and that will just add even more stress to the already-stressful period of adjusting to life with a newborn.

Keep Your Dog Busy

Chances are, no matter how hard you try, your baby will take some time away from your pup. Keep them engaged and mentally stimulated with enrichment toys, so that they don’t turn to chewing the furniture out of boredom instead.

You can also make the most of the times your baby is sleeping by catching up on valuable bonding time with your dog. Play with them or just hang out — remember, they still love you, and need your love in return.

Get Help If Needed

With so much going on, you may find it hard to balance caring for a baby and a dog at the same time. That’s okay, it’s totally normal and understandable.

If you find that you’re not able to take your dog out for walks or exercise, try hiring a dog walker or enlisting a friend or family member to help you out. 

A new baby changes your life — and your dog’s — forever. But with a little effort and the tips in this guide, you’ll hopefully see your child and your pup grow together, and become the very best of friends.

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