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Introducing your child to a doggy guest

You will have a doggy guest in your home soon. Maybe the canine belongs to a human overnight guest, or you are participating in a fostering program. Whatever the case is, it is a good idea to have a plan to introduce your child to the doggy guest for both of their sakes.

Here are some ways to start.

Explain expectations in advance

When you tell your child about the doggy guest, also outline the expectations you have. For example, you could say to a 5-year-old, "Fido is coming from the animal shelter and might be scared of loud noises and too much touching. Talk to Fido in a quiet voice and touch him gently. If he starts to shake or growl, leave him alone."

Get the dog settled first

A new environment can be overwhelming for a dog, even one who is a frequent guest in your house. The first goal is to get the dog settled, and you can start this by keeping the dog in a separate room from everyone else for a while.

Introduce the dog and child

Assuming all is well with the dog, the next step is to introduce your child to the guest. Food can work wonders, so give your child the dog's favorite treat. The child can hold the treat out or drop it on the floor. Either way, the child should have minimal eye contact with the dog. Fido needs to be the one to further initiate any interactions or approaches. For example, if the dog cowers or growls even with the treat being offered, the child should not force the encounter. Similarly, you do not want to reward and reinforce such doggy behavior with a treat.

It may take some time before the doggy guest warms up to your child, and in fact, it may never happen. No matter what, the process should be measured and intentional, with supervision for any playtime between children and the dog.

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