Animal Behavior & Training

MSPCA Nevis Farm

By Katrina Mancini May 2, 2019

Did you know the MSPCA offers Dog training courses?! 

Our family friendly classes are structured using evidence-based methods of training to ensure an effective and enjoyable learning experience for you and your dog.

Learn more about the MSPCA dog training programs HERE

Here are some steps on introducing a new dog to the family:

Dogs are a wonderful addition to any family, but having a dog for your kids to grow up with can make life just that much sweeter. How can you create harmony for the kids and canine members of your home alike? Good relationships with kids and dogs are made through selecting the right dog and reinforcing great behavior on the part of the dog and your kids.

Step 1 – Teach Your Kids How to Behave Around Dogs

Just as children need to be taught how to be well-behaved around other people, they need to be taught to be well-behaved and respectful around animals. They need to learn what kinds of games are appropriate, how to touch the dog properly, how to interpret the dog’s body language, and when the dog is not to be disturbed. When they're old enough to understand, kids can also be involved in the dog’s care and training. Great resources to teach adults and children how to read and interpret dog body language can be found at and These websites are tremendous resources for getting everyone in the family on the same page with regard to how to interact with dogs. “A common mistake parents make is to look only at their child’s intentions and not the result. For example, child hugging a dog is intending to be kind, but often the dog will feel trapped or anxious. Good interactions are enjoyed by all participants” states Colleen Pelar, CDBC, CPDT-KA, author of, Living With Kids and Dogs… Without Losing Your Mind.

Step 2 – Find a Great Dog (Unless you already have one)

Wonderful dogs can be found in rescues and through reputable breeders. The key to selecting a dog that will thrive around children is to look for one that actively wants to interact with your kids. You want to see the dog display loose, friendly body language and consistently be interested in your kids. Dogs who retreat from children or are too over the top excited may not be a good fit in the long run. Be realistic when thinking about the lifestyle you have and then what kind of dog will best fit that lifestyle. Do you love hiking and running? Consider a young, active dog for your family. Maybe you live in a city environment and lack ample space for exercise, In which case a larger, more active dog may not be the right choice. If you have ample free time to devote to socialization and training, then a puppy could be just what you’re looking for. Older, calmer dogs are a great choice for busy families that are always in and out of the house.

Step 3 – Introduce the Dog – Slowly!

Careful handling of introductions will set the scene for future interactions and help your dog settle into life with your family. Even if used to children in the past, a new dog will not be used to yours and will need time to get to know them. Start with the dog on a leash and be observant of how the dog is reacting. Help prevent the dog from feeling overwhelmed by allowing the dog to approach your kids when he’s ready rather than the other way round. Children should be standing still or sitting when the dog is first introduced. They can encourage the dog to come to them by sitting down and offering a treat. Have your child toss small treats on the ground as the dog approaches. Kids should not look directly into the dog’s eyes, reach toward, lean over, or hug the new dog. Dogs do not always like to be hugged or cuddled by new or unfamiliar people. It is a great temptation for children to do this, especially if they have been used to doing it to a previous dog. When the dog is comfortable taking treats from your kids, they can gently scratch him under the chin as he does so. Gradually, introduce more interactions like petting and stroking if your dog is doing well. Continue to pay close attention to your dog’s body language and give him plenty of breaks if he seems at all uncomfortable or overwhelmed. “Do not leave a dog and a child unsupervised!” This is a phrase often heard and repeated. The reality is that true supervision requires a parent to actively watch their kids and the dog. This is just not always possible given the lightning speed with which things change in a home with children. Crates, doors and baby gates are excellent tools to separate children and dogs when busy parents cannot supervise them fully. Managing your dog’s space can lead to more opportunities for adults to reinforce calm, appropriate behavior with the dog and children in the family. Successful relationships between kids and dogs do require an investment, but the rewards are well worth it. A right start with controlled and safe introductions is one way to set the stage for a lifetime of happiness for your dog and kids. The MSPCA at Nevins Farm Animal Behavior Camp; Training Department in Methuen, MA offers group classes for puppies through senior dogs 7 days a week as well as Private Lessons and Behavior Consultations. 

To learn more, visit

Thank you for considering the MSPCA to help you accomplish your dog training goals. If you did not find the class you hoped for on this site, please contact us to let us know what you would like to learn with your dog. Our goal is to help you have fun while learning with your dear dog and we are happy to add new classes or bring back past ones based on the demand from our students.

For more information:

Phone: 978-687-7453 Ext. 6121


Training Office Hours:

Monday – Thursday 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Friday: Office Closed

Saturday: Office Closed

Sunday: Office Closed