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socializing adopted shelter dogs with your children

Socializing Adopted Dogs with Children

You’ve decided to adopt an adorable little puppy to grow up right along with your kids, enjoying the absolute best of childhood together! Or was it that adult you rescued, the one you just couldn’t bear to leave in the shelter one minute longer?


Socializing an Adopted Puppy

No matter what the breed, dogs are already social animals naturally. Socializing any puppy is one of the absolute easiest training tasks anyone can do! They want to be social, to explore, make friends and interact with everything they see.


Your puppy is going to want to play with your cat (though this may be a bad idea from the cat’s perspective), your daughter’s bunny, your son’s hamster, and just about anything else that may cross its path. It’s in his nature! Young puppies haven’t yet developed a sense of caution or fear, and will gladly interact with everything available.


Encourage these pleasant, happy interactions with your children and other pets (within reason)! Introduce your puppy to strangers and house guests. Reward these fun new experiences with praise and treats. Teach your puppy there is nothing to worry about, and people are not a threat, especially strangers or visitors.


As long as you be sure to avoid anything bad or unpleasant during these first few months, you’ll be golden!


Important: Ensuring your dog grows up with the fantastic social skills only dogs are best for is your responsibility, not your child’s. In many ways, puppies are like toddlers and need the constant, mature supervision only an adult is capable of. Many parents adopt puppies in order to teach responsibility only for them to end up back at the shelter, now older and less likely to be adopted.


  • Children often have a hard time recognizing subtle visual cues dogs give off when they are uncomfortable, or want to be left alone. Make sure your son or daughter knows dogs don’t like to be picked up and casually fondled like stuffed animals.
  • Avoid excessive yelling or punishment. Anything that might provoke fear or distrust in the new dog needs to stop. Even if the yelling is directed somewhere else, it can cause the puppy discomfort.


Socializing an Adopted Adult Dog

Strong social skills come natural to any dog, and most will be absolutely fine! Socializing a well behaved adult is a lot like socializing a puppy; encourage play and reward happy interactions!


Though it is never the dog’s fault, sometimes something might happen in the dog’s environment before adoption, or before they were surrendered, that could change their behavior toward children or human handlers. No parent can ever be exactly sure with any adult adoption because they didn’t personally raise it. In order to be as prepared as possible:


  • Do a background check into the adoption facility or previous owner.
  • Try to find out why the dog was surrendered in the first place.



This training term simply means you are going to pair something the dog doesn’t like with something he does, until your pup begins to associate the two and no longer dislikes the first thing! If your adopted adult is uncomfortable around children, have your kids offer him treats and encourage play.


Observe the adult dog closely with kids. Teach your child:


  • Not to hug the dog. A child embracing a dog could signify dominance, instead of the effection intended.
  • Don’t let your child get his face close to theirs. To a dog, this could be a sign of aggression.