Introducing a New Dog

Updated on January 12, 2009
T.F. asks from Mankato, MN
6 answers

Our family just adopted a 2 year old labrador retriever. He is an active guy but has a great temperament and is wonderful with my son. My son (almost 4) on the other hand is not adjusting as well as we thought he would. My son loves talking about our dog and calls him his best friend. We let him help us pick out toys for our dog and he enjoys playing with him when mom or dad is around but doesn't let us leave him to go anywhere else in the house if the dog is out of his crate. I understand that our son is about the same size of our dog but he has not done anything to hurt our son. I am wondering if anyone has any good ideas to help reduce the anxiety level of our son. I know it might just take time but I thought maybe other pet owners with children might have ideas! Thanks :)

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answers from Duluth on

We have "adopted" pets and "adopted" children. They are all part of our family, as well as other people not related to us! When we got the kids after having dogs before the kids, we just watched them carefully for a while. We knew our dogs were gentle, but the kids were small. The kids just gave the dogs a pat as they walked by them. We were all cool with it. Our dogs were kennel trained and we cautioned the kids to never go into their "house" or put their hands into it, and don't try to pet unfamiliar animals. They are all great buddies, now.



answers from Minneapolis on

Like everyone else, I think your son will warm up to the dog in time. Labs are big and rambunctious. I have two elderly dogs so my kids get a little intimidated by younger dogs because they have so much energy. It's probably just as well he doesn't want to be left alone with the dog because even the most gentle of dogs can accidentally hurt a child being playful--play biting, knocking them over, etc. Would your son like to have a special job to help care for the dog that might make him bond more quickly? Help change his water or something? Throw a ball/play fetch? When our kids were younger we would sometimes sit with the kids and dogs together and pet the dogs together. The dogs won't always sit for the kids, but they will sit for us and that allows the child to pet the dog without the dog getting too excited.

I also think it is perfectly normal to refer to "adopting" a pet and don't feel bad about that. Humane societies and rescue organizations use the phrase "pet adoptions" all of the time. My brother and his wife are in the process of adopting a child and I don't consider it demeaning to refer to adopting a pet. Best wishes.



answers from Minneapolis on

I wouldn't push him....I really think it's just a matter of time. practical advice.



answers from Madison on

Just give it time and positive encouragement. Labs are bigger dogs and can seem overwhelming to young ones at their same eye level. I think it is a wise move right now to not leave your son alone with the dog as you want to take some time to get to know the dog too (like what happens if its tail or ears get pulled, or it gets poked in the nose or eyes). Adopted animals can take a few months to really get to know. Just respect your son's timeline and keep an eye on things, like wagging tails, and excited paws, etc. They will be best buds before you know it!
PS I think adopted is the correct term, as they are not born into your family, but brought in from the outside. I have one dog that is adopted and another that was born with us (her daughter).



answers from Waterloo on

I don't think refering to it as "adopting" a pet is demeaning to adopted children at all. What a strange thing to say!

About your son though =) I agree: just give him time. Labs are big (especially to a 4 yr old) and active. And at 2 yrs he's still considered a puppy. Let your son go at his own pace with the dog and pretty soon they'll be best buds. Be sure to always include your son in caring for the dog, that should help too.



answers from Green Bay on

Agree with other response - don't push, he just needs time to adjust and probably isn't able to articulate or understand his fear.

Also, please do not refer to the process as "adopting" a pet. This is very demeaning to adopted children, unless you think of them the same way you do a pet, and my children are certainly not the equivalent of a dog.

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