Children and dogs can grow up to be best buddies as long as the needs of both human and furry friends are being met.
If you do not give building a relationship between the two the time and attention it needs and deserves you are likely to end up with problems that may be dangerous for both your children and your canine companions.
The benefits of your child having a dog include improved social skills, developing a sense of responsibility and learning about respect and compassion.
Following these few simple suggestions should help build and maintain a healthy companionship and keep your life simple and safe.
Communication and Boundaries
First of all, you need to make sure that both your dog and your child have a good understanding of what the other can tolerate and what they cannot.
Dogs can find children difficult to understand, as the way they communicate is so different. While children make a lot of eye contact, are touchy and like bodily contact such as hugs or kisses this can be confusing and even threatening to your dog and may result in issues. A good understanding of your dog’s body language is crucial to ensuring that everyone is happy and safe.
Some dogs can be protective of their toys, food, treats and so it is also important to teach your children not to bother your dog whilst they eat or when happy playing with their toys alone.
Your dogs bed or crate can also be seen as their safe place where they can retreat when it all gets a little too much so it is important to teach your children not to play or lie in your dogs bed/crate and not to disturb your dog when he/she is in their safe space.
If the child is old enough to understand, ask them to think from the dog’s point of view.
You can turn this into an activity and write up a list of Rules for playing with your furry friend.
These could include:
- Do not allow games where one chases the other. This can be misinterpreted by the dog.
- Wrestling games- Your dog will not know his own strength and may become too excited and hurt someone.
- Never sneak up or surprise a dog – Dogs are not a fan of hide and seek!
- Do not allow anyone to tease a dog with toys or other objects.
- Do not play tug games or put your hands to close to the dog’s mouth whilst playing.
Teaching your dog to behave appropriately around children can take patience and training, using small treats and positive reinforcement is one of the easiest and most effective ways of teaching your dog what behaviour is rewarded and what is not.
For example, whenever your dog is gentle and playing nicely with your children give them a small treat and plenty of positive reinforcement. When you consistently reward your dog for doing certain actions, they will learn quickly what behaviour gets a positive reaction and what does not.
Children also respond well to positive reinforcement, always make sure you praise your children when they are mindful and considerate of your dogs needs or are gentle and respectful whilst playing or stroking.
Supervision and Separation.
It should go without saying that young children and dogs should not be left alone together without adult supervision.
Dogs are a social species and enjoy human company, but like us all they need their own space sometimes, particularly if they are feeling overwhelmed, are in a stressful situation or are simply not in the mood so crate training your dog whilst young is a good idea. When properly introduced, a crate can become a useful safe place for your dog. Crating your dog is really useful if your dog or children need a bit of space, as they are separate but at the same time in the same room ensuring they do not feel excluded.
Dogs don’t understand inconsistency they need black and white, right and wrong especially whilst learning so it is very important to stay consistent.
Make sure all family members are on the same page and up to speed when it comes to commands used, rules such as not feeding the dog at the table or letting the dog sleep on furniture and lastly the dogs daily routines such as walk times and feeding times.
Hopefully these small hints and tips will enable you, your family and your dog to have a healthy, safe and a harmonious household.
Thanks for reading,
The Doggie Solutions Team