How to Teach Kids to take Care of a New Puppy

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caring for a new puppy

We have a new puppy! How fun is that? We’ve wanted a dog for a long time, but with our tour in Germany, and all the craziness of daily life, it just wasn’t time yet for us. This spring, when I was out of work on sick leave, I came across this beautiful little face, and just had to bring her home.

Meet Kayuh. She’s a Norwegian Elkhound/Alaskan Spitz mix.

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I had been worried about adding a dog to our mix with all the kids, and did a lot of research on how to ease the transition and include the kids from the beginning. This is a family pet, so everyone needs to chip in! We all know that puppies don’t stay puppies forever, so we are trying to savor this baby stage with her. She’s so cute and small, and is learning so quickly!

The kids have been learning quickly too.

Care for a new Puppy

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Teach the Kids to Respect the Crate

This is the first (and I’d argue one of the most important things) the kids and Kayuh have been learning. Her crate is her safe place. We use crate training to aid in potty training, to save my carpet from messes, and to make sure that at the end of the day (or in the middle of the day) there is a quiet, safe place for Kayuh to get a break from the commotion. Four kids can be a lot to handle, and when you are as little as Kayuh is, there has to be a place to get away from them. The kids know that they aren’t supposed to bother her in the crate- when she is inside, they are to stay away.

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Share the Work from the Start

My kids have been a part of potty training Kayuh from the start. No one likes picking up dog doo, but the kids have known from the first moment we brought her home that it was their responsibility to help. My ten year old has taken the lead on bathroom breaks. When the puppy needs out, he grabs the leash, and a clean-up bag, and takes care of everything. Because he’s worked so hard with her and has been so responsive to her needs, she’s really come to love and respect him.

Include Kids in Training

We signed Kayuh up for training at PetSmart as soon as she was old enough to have her last vaccination. I don’t take her out before then to protect her from all the nasty things she can catch (parvo isn’t something to mess around with!) but as soon as she is up to date on those shots, it’s game time.


I bring the kids (in shifts) with me to training so each of them has a chance to see the dog trainer in action and ask their questions. At home, each of the kids gets a turn to practice the commands. Kayuh is little, but she’s learning quickly to sit, lay down, walk nice on a leash, and all the other things she needs to know. By including the kids from day one, she knows she needs to listen to them and respect them as well.

Let the Kids Participate in Feeding Time

Another way for the kids to bond with the new puppy is to have them participate in feeding time. We picked up Purina® Pro Plan® Savor® Shredded Blend puppy food at PetSmart while we were there for training classes. It has the high-quality ingredients I know she needs, and must taste good because she gobbles it up!

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At meal times, I let the kids scoop her food, but then they stand back to watch her eat from a distance. You never want to mix meal time and little fingers, especially with a hungry puppy. Kayah is always bouncing around and acts a bit crazy, but at dinner she stops to savor her food, and it gives the kids a chance to rest too.

Avoid Bad Behaviors

There are some things we don’t do with the dog, and I’d recommend avoiding them if you have little kids. We don’t play tug-o-war, because as the trainer put it, you’re just teaching the dog that it can overpower you to get what it wants. The last thing you want is a dog tugging on a beloved stuffed animal, or worse, your child’s arm. We also don’t roughhouse with our hands, and when the puppy or the kids get out of hand, into the crate she goes to settle down.

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I’ve been surprised at just how easy it has been to train the puppy and the kids at the same time. She’s such a smart little thing and has picked up quickly on our family’s rules. The kids are learning what is expected of them. Overall, it’s been a smooth process!

Do you have any tips to share for bringing a new puppy home? Share them in the comments!

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  1. Oh my gosh, Kayuh is so adorable!!

    I love that you’re already teaching your kids to respect her space while she’s eating or resting! But of course I want to throw my two cents in, since I don’t know how versed you are in dog training 😉 Puppies are pretty much always cool cucumbers, but many times their personalities can change as they mature (spitz type dogs are fairly prone to this) – so I actually WOULD recommend a bit of harassment/roughhousing to teach her that all her humans rank over her in pack order, and that she needs to tolerate pretty much anything you guys do, just in case her particular genetics make her prone to becoming snippy as an adult. I don’t mean you make it a routine to bother her while she eats (for example), but she needs to be exposed to human hands in her food bowl, or taking away a toy mid-chew, just in case you ever need to take something from her, and she needs to learn that being physically bothered (ear pulling, paw touching, etc) is also something to accept – she’s going to have a lot of grooming and vet visits in her future, LOL

    If you aren’t already familiar with canine body language and behavior, it’s pretty fascinating. Not only will you keep your family safe and better understand what she wants, but when you’re out you’ll know whether it’s a good idea to introduce her to any particular random dog. People always love having their dogs meet but often times the dogs don’t want to – and one or both people end up saying, “My dog has never done THAT before!” because they had no idea 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for the helpful guidance! The kids man-handle her more than I would like, and we’re all slowly learning how to get along together. I think she thinks they (especially the youngest peanut) are puppies…

  2. These are all wonderful tips! I love that you are including the kids in training sessions! #client

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