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RAISING CHILDREN AND DOGS TOGETHER

Your children probably treat your dog like another sibling - they sleep together, play together and even disagree sometimes. But dogs deserve proper handling from all of your family members, so it's your job to teach your children and your dog how to treat each other.

Before you adopt a dog, find out which breeds do best with children and discuss the decision to get a pet with your children. They're likelier to accept some responsibility for the pet if you lay the groundwork and they feel involved.

Training Your Child

Most dogs - especially larger breeds - are tolerant of small children. For example, setters, retrievers and standard poodles all tend to be kid-friendly choices. Still, your children need to learn to be gentle and never to bully your pet. Here are some rules to teach your children about pet handling:
  • Don't bother your pet at mealtimes or during his afternoon nap.
  • Play gently. Rowdy play can confuse and overstimulate your dog.
Don't allow a young child walk around holding a puppy. A puppy can easily squirm out of a child's hands and hurt himself or the child. Supervise your children when they play with the dog for the first few weeks. And don't let children out of your sight when there's a dog around. Infants and toddlers don't understand the difference between their stuffed dog and your live pet, and an angry exchange between child and dog can flare in an instant - and be devastating.

Also, don't be surprised if the new dog frightens your young children. From their perspective, he's a large, barking, drooling beast. Over time, they'll get used to having a pet around, and you can ease your children's fears if they participate in training your dog and learn the commands to make your dog obey.

Training Your Dog

Dogs and children can be such good friends that sometimes your dog forgets your child is not one of his littermates. For example, rowdy puppy play can cause a pup to nip his brother, and childish exuberance can get the same reaction.

Teach your child to correct your dog if he nips. Encourage your children to play quieter games with the puppy to prevent this behavior entirely.

Also, take your dog to training classes. Many training facilities let kids participate, so you, your dog and your children can learn the rules of behavior together. Learn about Petco's Canine Education classes here.

Your dog needs to feel like he's part of the family, so introduce your pet to all of your family members and welcome him into your home.

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