Dogs are not Human Beings
Although Hollywood and television often portray dogs with human thoughts, values and even words, it is important to remember that your dog is a dog not a person. Dogs have different needs than humans do. One important element in a dog’s life is his need for a pack hierarchy. Your family is now your dog’s pack and you (the adult family member’s)) must be your dog’s pack leader (the alpha wolf). Without this leadership, your dog will assume leadership and not only become an obnoxious mutt, but will try to “run your children” which can (and often does) lead to disastrous results. The first thing you must do to assume leadership with your dog is take your dog to obedience school. An ill behaved dog is a threat to your children, plain and simple. You cannot control your dog around your children if he doesn’t know or won’t obey basic obedience commands. The next thing you must do is set some house rules (e.g. no begging, no jumping on people or furniture, no chewing, etc.). Include your children in setting these rules so that they know what is allowed of the dog and what is not. Consistency is very important. Everyone must agree and hold the dog to the same set of rules. Inconsistency (Mom says it’s OK, Dad says it isn’t) will confuse the dog and lead to behavior problems. Teach your dog the rules by firmly but gently disciplining him for breaking them and lovingly praising appropriate behavior.
Age Stages – Do’s and Don’ts
Dogs interact with children differently depending on the child’s age. The following is a description of the different “Age stages” and some do’s an don’ts for each stage.
Children under the age of two really aren’t aware of the dog as a real presence. Although they may talk to the dog and call it by name, the dog doesn’t really mean any more to it than a stuffed animal. At this age the dog considers the child a potential littermate. This can be an issue if the dog feels at all rejected because of the arrival of the child into the home.
Supervision is mandatory whenever the child and dog are together. No dog can be trusted with an infant unsupervised. Playpens are a very useful tool to separate dog and infant.
Reward your dog with gentle praise or small treats for tolerating toddler play (patting, crawling around him, etc.) As your child enters toddler hood begin teaching him appropriate ways of interacting with the dog (petting vs. hitting). Separate the child from the dog if play gets too rough or your dog seems ill at ease.
Don’t relegate your dog to the backyard. He is a family member and deserves and needs to be with you. Time in the backyard while your child is playing around the house is fine, but when the child is napping or you are free to supervise, bring the dog in. Don’t bar your dog from the nursery. Teach him to come in and hold a down–stay. Barring him from the nursery can create jealousies.