Children love puppies and many are eager for one to join their family. Why wouldn’t they be, puppies are cute!

The dream of a new puppy is often;

• To provide children with a special friend

• To teach children to care for and respect life

• To teach responsibility

• To have fun and provide companionship for the whole family

• To get out and about and be more active

These are all great reasons and certainly the same reasons as I had when first getting a puppy and I am pleased to say are the things I still enjoy today with my 5 girls.

However, the combination of children and puppies can often lead to some challenging times for all members of the family including the new puppy.

Some challenges families talk to me about are;

• Puppies jumping up, trying to nibble fingers or their claws catching skin and scratching

• They chase your feet and don’t stop when told ‘no’

• Stealing children’s toys and not giving them back and sometimes breaking/destroying them

• Pooping and peeing in the home

• Crying at night

• Won’t calm down when asked

• Have sharp teeth and won’t stop biting regardless of what you say/do

• digging up the garden

• Chasing the children

These behaviours can lead to difficult times and the magic you imagined about having a puppy can seem like a distant memory.

Here are some top tips to consider before you get a puppy;

  • Do lots of research on what is the best matched breed for your family; consider breed traits, size and potential strength not just how cute the puppy looks – I know that can be hard
  • Do your research on breeders; are all health tests complied with and early habituation and socialisation included in the puppy rearing. For example have they been exposed to normal household noises like the washing machine, hoover and sound of children playing, crying or even shouting? These can be played via recordings if no children are present
  • Consider if any rescues have any have puppies available and suitable for your family
  • Practice some routines with your family about getting up early and timetabling time for puppy play, training, feeding, walking etc
  • Estimate how much the puppy may cost per month for their health, grooming, training, walking, insurance and potentially other hidden costs (double what you think you might need, that has certainly been my experience and feedback from clients)
  • Research local trainers, groomers, vets etc and visit where possible, choose people you are comfortable with and give you time to ask questions
  • Watch tutorials and read books to learn about puppyhood, body language and how to be consistent in a kind and fun way. Steve Mann’s book Easy Peasy Puppy Squeezy is a great read and Family Paws have some great free resources too
  • Consider how much space you have available in your home and in your garden? You may like to use a crate/pen and these take up quite a bit of space and your puppy will need space to explore and play
  • Take some time to think about if you have enough time? Puppies/dogs are social beings and don’t cope well being left alone for long periods of time. Having a puppy is often likened to having another baby in the home

Here are some top tips when you get your puppy home;

  • Your puppy needs a safe, quiet designated spot to rest and sleep. If their bed/crate is in a busy part of your home they won’t rest properly. Use baby gates, pens etc to help section off a safe place they can call their own
  • Use a coloured blanket over their crate, bed or designated area to help your children recognise that they should leave the puppy alone when in his/her area and the blanket is on
  • Your puppy needs around 18 hours sleep per day otherwise they will get ratty and over tired which can lead to all sorts of behaviour you don’t want to encourage. Sleep is really important for a well-balanced puppy
  • Providing calm ‘zen’ types of games for mental stimulation, sniffing and gentle stroking will promote a calmer puppy. Puppies find it almost impossible to go from chasing the children around in the garden to ‘now stop’ because the children don’t want to play anymore. Encouraging children to practice calm walking and talking (at least for some parts of the day) is helpful for them and the puppy to learn what is appropriate together time
  • Have long lasting healthy treats available or a stuffed KONG to help them with teething and to use strategically to encourage an appropriate behaviour instead of, for instance, them begging/scrounging/jumping up at the dinner time or being a pain when getting children ready for school in the morning
  • Give children designated chores and perhaps consider with young children using reward charts – this can be great fun as a whole family. You can include things such as tidy away toys, put shoes and trainers in a cupboard, close bedroom doors as well as specific training exercises for older children
  • Encourage a hands-off approach. Many puppies are cuddled, picked up and touched too much which causes the puppy to use body language and communication signals that we don’t like. For example biting, snapping, growling, running away – unfortunately this can then lead to the puppy getting into trouble. When stroking the puppy try count to 5 and then stop; if the puppy actively tries to get you to continue then stroke for another 5 counts, if not stop stroking the puppy. Sometimes they just want to be close but not touched
  • Building a trusting, respectful and fun relationship with your puppy takes time and organisation, especially when you have young children so having good support is essential and luckily most friends, family and even neighbours are happy to oblige. There are also many community training groups on social media that are a great source of help, advice and fun; just make sure they are run by qualified trainers/behaviourists that use reward based, kind and fun methods
  • When booking puppy parties/training/day care do lots of research, make sure they are run by appropriately qualified staff using kind, ethical and science-based methods. Early socialisation is a very important aspect of puppyhood which is misunderstood by many. You can read a recent blog I wrote about it here;
  • Lastly but most importantly always supervise time between your puppy and children to ensure the interaction is appropriate, safe and positive for your children and your puppy

If you would like to follow our puppy training programme you can attend classes with us in Harlow, Essex or if you are too far away join our online academy, for more info visit here