Dogs and children need your guidance and supervision to live together happily ever after.
How A Dog Sees Your Child
Most dogs see children as littermates and treat them as such. Your dog might know not to jump up on you, the pack leader, but she may decide it is alright to do to your children. Dogs are easily stimulated by the exuberance of children. To a dog, a running, shrieking child is an invitation to chase and play rough. In addition, children love to hug dogs. Unfortunately, in dog-language, a hug is an attempt to dominate. If your dog resents your child’s dominance move, she might become aggressive. It is up to the adults in the household to supervise all child/dog interactions to ensure a safe and respectful bond develops between the two.
Before Getting A Dog, you need to know…
If you don’t have a dog now but are planning on getting one soon, start exposing your child (or your children) to dogs and how to act around them. Help them learn to respect each dog’s space and preferences. Teach them to only approach leashed dogs, always ask the dog’s owner first, and then to move slowly. Explain that the dog will want to sniff them that’s how a dog identifies you. The old method of meeting a new dog is to offer an outstretched hand for her to sniff. Experts now recommend keeping hands down along the sides of the body. Dogs have such a keen sense of smell that they don’t need us to hold hands out and if a dog has been abused in the past she may snap at a hand coming towards her. It is safer to let the dog approach and sniff where she wants.
Dogs And Children Need Rules
Just as you will establish house rules for your dog (stay off the couch, etc.) it is important to establish boundaries for children in regard to your pet. Teach your child (or your children) to never take a toy from your dog, and to leave her alone while she is eating. Dogs are often especially possessive about their toys and food. Kids and dogs make great playmates, but teach your children that if they play roughly, the dog will respond in kind. Even though the dog doesn’t mean to hurt your child, accidents happen. Playing fetch is a better game than wrestling between kids and dogs.
Training Your Dog
An excellent way for your child to bond with your dog is to take part in training her. Giving her treats as a reward for correct behavior is a delight to kids, and it raises the child’s position in your dog’s eyes. Just as your dog develops respect for your child, help your child do the same. Teach your children that dogs are living beings with likes, dislikes, and fears of their own. Help them see their pet as more than entertainment, but as a cherished member of the family.