How To Make The Kids and Dogs Relationship A Positive One
April 26 is National Kids and Pets Day! When it comes to families, many generally include kids and animals, although sometimes it can be difficult for everyone to get along. Some breeds of dogs are more prone to love kids while others may have a harder time. Same goes for children; some kids naturally get along with dogs while others may be more reserved around them. Here are some ways to help ensure a good relationship between your children and your dog.
One way to start is by using what Karen Pryor’s Clicker Training site calls “management.” This means controlling the environment in which the child and the dog will be in. If you know that the dog is a bit fearful of kids, be sure to put the dog in their crate and/or keep them occupied with a toy so they don’t get so stressed out with a child being around. Another good way to ensure a good relationship is starting early! Teach the child at a young age that the dog is not scary but is someone to be loved and cared for. This way your kids also learn to not be too rough with the dog, helping to make sure there are no accidental bites occurring.
Also, make sure to train the dog early as well! Good and consistent training with your dog will always help make them feel more comfortable. Make sure your dog has various types of experiences, especially those involving kids since, as the clicker training website points out, even if it is not your own child, your dog is bound to come across one eventually. You want to make sure that these experiences also have a positive outcome, so the clicker training website also recommends you bring treats with you everywhere. This way if a child comes to approach your dog, you can have treats to give your dog to help relax them as the child pets them. This will help the dog associate an interaction with a child with getting a reward in the end. Then you could also have the child hand your dog a treat as well.
Since children can be a bit rough at times, you will want to get your dog accustomed to occasionally getting a tail or ear tugged here and there. So again, treats are super important and getting them to associate this with positivity. Practice tugging a bit on their tail and then immediately giving them a treat and praise. That won’t be enough though, since you aren’t going to be the one doing the rough handling so you will want your dog to also associate strangers handling them with getting a treat as well.
Some dogs are a bit overly friendly and get very excited when seeing children. This could pose a problem as they may be the ones being too rough and end up hurting the child. Making sure you train your dog to have good manners and greeting behavior is essential as well. This way they know not to bulldoze into people. Another important aspect to teach your dog is to know that he cannot protect his food. Resource and food guarding can potentially be very dangerous with a child around since they do not know better and are very curious and like to touch everything, including the dog’s food. This page from the Honest Kitchen recommends that you try to get your dog used to you handling their food and even taking it away while they are eating. You can try hand-feeding them as well. This way the dog associates that the food comes from your hand. You also want to teach children that just as you wouldn’t touch an adult’s food, you shouldn’t touch the dog’s food either.
A good way to help teach children to be comfortable around dogs is to teach them to “be a tree” as said by the Clicker Training website. This means standing still with your hands folded, like branches of a tree, and watching “your roots grow,” or looking at your feet and ignoring the dog. This will give the dog an opportunity to calm down since the child is being “boring” and also lets the dog sniff them out without the child touching them all over. It is also important to teach children proper handling and about the body language of dogs. Children should be able to tell when your dog is not enjoying something and when to back off. Teach them how to pet your dog in a way that they enjoy and encourage them to scratch under their chin or pet the top of their head instead of giving hugs, since dogs generally do not actually enjoy them.
Overall, kids and dogs can grow up together and have the best friendships and bonds in the world, as long as you help teach them along the way to respect each other’s boundaries. Kids and dogs are a part of the family and neither of them should be seen as toys to one another.