Introducing children to new pets by Jacqueline Valencia

This subject is always a touchy one because having only had cats before, having a dog opened my eyes to this being something a lot of people don’t talk about. When I first started fostering, the big part of that was not letting children near the new dog. Since fosters are usually rescues that come from traumatic or unknown backgrounds, there is no surety as to how a pup will react to anyone reaching out to touch it.The risk in getting bitten or scratched is high no matter how well behaved a foster dog is. In turn, a lot of rescues haven’t had their vaccines or been around others, therefore the chance of passing illness to another is there.

Often I would go out with my foster dog and a child would come out of nowhere with a parent lagging in two to encourage them. As soon as I said no or pulled the dog away, my actions were seen as offensive. I didn’t mean any offense, I’m trying to protect dog and child. This is why the key to introducing children to new pets is giving each other space and considering consent.

You might not think asking for permission is important to an animal, but it very much is. When training a pet, it is necessary for the pet to know that whatever command it is following, it is following because they agree to it. A treat is an exchange for acceptable behaviour. A caress is a form of affection accepted by a pet if it is calm and seeks it out. Having a pet is a perfect way of teaching children the idea of consent.

The first thing to do is familiarize your child with what your dog likes and doesn’t like. This way your child will start learning how to be calm and react to a dog’s behaviour. When they go to approach their pet, it’s best to have the pet come to them using commands while on a leash. Have the pet sniff the child slowly around the child. Have the kid say a friendly hello in turn. Try not to offer a hand yet, but if you do, curl the fingers in case the dog gets nippy. If it is receptive, introduce a small stroke of the fur. A child that feels that they are in control of the situation with a pet, will have a loyal animal friend in turn.

(Babies you should be cautiously introduced with a smell of the baby’s clothes or blankets first. Have the dog be around the baby, but never alone before the one on one introduction.)

I do focus on dogs here, but this includes cats, rabbits, hamsters, or any animal you choose as a companion for your child at home. Learning to respect another living being is a necessary component to a child’s social skills. Pets learn a lot from these respectful and caring introductions. They learn to be gentle as well as what loyalty is all about.

A child that grows up with a pet is a child that has a lifelong buddy at their side. Whether they play or just hang out, the bond created between a growing pet and child can be incredibly strong. A child will learn confidence well into their adulthood and a pet will always know that they will always have family at their side.


  1. Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash
  2. Photo by Terricks Noah on Unsplash