When dealing with kids and dogs there are a few simple strategies to help your kids feel like they’re helping raise and train your pooch.
Here are a few rules to help you understand the relationship between your child and your dog.
Dogs observe everything. They may not look like it, but they are watching what every member of the household is doing. This helps them find a secure place within the family. I don’t believe in “Pack status” but I do believe in dogs finding their role. They are ultimately looking for a few key behaviours in your family, one of which is CONSISTENCY
. Kids are often lacking consistency, and dogs will notice this.
How to help your child or children demonstrate consistent behaviour by setting a few key routines.
1. Supervise all interactions between your child and your dog closely. No matter how much you love and trust your dog it is still an animal. Dogs can be unpredictable at times and so can children! Be there to stop any unwanted behaviour from either of them! Never EVER leave a young child unsupervised with a dog, it can be a recipe for disaster.
2. Always have your child enter rooms or doorways first. Because children are small and often will weigh less than the family dog, it’s important to teach the dog not to follow its excitement and bowl the child over while racing up stairs, or through a threshold.
3. Your kids room is just that! His or her room! Teach the dog that they are not allowed in the child’s room unless you choose to invite them. That goes double for being on the bed. I would recommend against allowing the dog to sleep in the same room as well. Visits and cuddling are great, but let’s teach the dog that your child is entitled to have their own space in your household.
4. Teach your child to walk your dog on leash, however, it is so important that you have a second leash attached that an adult it holding on to. Imagine if your dog saw a squirrel dart across his path. Is your child strong enough to handle that kind of force? I don’t know about you but my dog loves squirrels, and if your dog isn’t already trained to heal or walk on loose leash this scenario can end up with a crying child who has scraped up everything and a dog that may be on the loose.
5. Once you have mastered some basic commands with your dog, try having your children reinforce them. Teach your children to have your dog “sit” or “down” and have your child reward them with a treat, fetch, or a gentle pat on the head. Remember to supervise this even closely as well.
6. Give your kids responsibility. How does “poop patrol” sound? Not much fun! But it is a reality of owning a dog. You can also give them basic responsibilities like ensuring that the dog always has a fresh water supply. When your child is older, you can also ask them to be in charge of feeding your dog. Have them ask your dog to “sit” and “wait” and as they prepare the food and place it on the ground teach the dog to be patient and avoid rushing the food. This is vital!
7. Teach your children how to pet their dog. Many younger children like to grab and don’t know to be gentle and kind while handling their pet. At the same time it is also beneficial to teach the dog to be patient with your child. We worked on this from a very young age with our son Miles. He is now 14 months and will gently stroke Vegas. Vegas will also communicate when he’s had enough by walking away. When Vegas walks away we are sure to teach Miles to leave him be.
8. Teach your child to leave the dog alone when eating. Many people like the idea of taking away a food dish while a dog is near it. When I am sitting down to a dinner I would be pretty annoyed if you pulled my plate away from me unannounced!
9. Try to have your child attend all veterinary, training, or grooming appointments if possible. Teach them just how much money, time and dedication a dog really takes. You will help mould your child into a compassionate and caring dog owner.
10. Have fun!!! Show them all of the perks and loyalty a dog brings to the family. Go on awesome walks as a family. Hit some trails, beaches, and general adventures! After a tough day at school there is nothing like having that guaranteed friend who will not leave your side.
PS Please be extremely cautious if your child enjoys hugging your dog. I have worked with too many families with children AND adults who have received stitches to face after giving their family dog a hug. This is a matter of miscommunication. Humans hug to show affection while dogs mount by putting their paws around another dog to demonstrate dominance. It can also increase anxiety because the dog is feeling trapped. A flight or fight response. Just be careful to read your dogs signals. If you’re not sure how to, please give me a call for some training 🙂
Hopefully you enjoyed this post, please share with friends and family who have children!