Expert Advice: Prepping Kids for Pets

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Did you give in to your kids’ constant requests for a puppy and leave one under the tree for them this year? If chewed-up Crocs and high-chair scavenging have you second-guessing the decision, It’s not too late to undo bad habits and have some fun together in the form of a  puppy training class. We talked to Susan Oshie, a former vet tech and owner of Seattle-area Paws4Training who teaches her classes in the Seattle area. At her classes, Oshie teaches toddlers 3 and up the dos and dont’s of puppy love–from how to greet a dog (put  your hand out flat under dog’s chin to let them sniff you first) to how to hold and pet them. Oshie was kind enough to share some of her top tips for introducing children to pet ownership

• Supervise interactions between puppies and kids: Parents should always be present to control and observe the level of interaction. That includes play, touching, and petting.

•  Children should not have the burden of care and training for puppy/dogs. They are not mature enough to be expected to provide the time, care and consistency it requires. They do however need to learn the rules for interacting with the puppy. Discuss rules before bringing home your new dog. Ex: No roughhousing or wrestling with the puppy. No running, screaming or chasing around the puppy. Never open the door to let the puppy out.

•  Teach appropriate games between kids and dogs to promote cooperation, control and fun. Ex. Find it, hide and seek, follow the leader.

Oshie’s newest class, Introducing Your Dog to Baby, is for expecting parents and covers what to do before, when, and after a baby joins the family. Her advice for this delicate time includes introducing baby smells and sounds beforehand and getting friends to help with walking the dog. In those first few months with the new babe, parents often don’t have the same time and energy for their pet. “It’s okay to ask for help,” Oshie says, “because you’ve got to take care of your dog’s emotional, physical and mental needs.” The end result: a happier dog equals a happier family.

—Kavita Varma-White

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