Train DogsKids and dogs are like oil and water – they don’t mix naturally, but with supervision and guidance, they can make a real fine match! No dog is completely childproof––even a Golden Retriever. The following are some tips and guidance for making your kids and dog a “Match made in heaven”.
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.
Age Stages – Do’s and Don’ts
At this age, children view the dog as a “Funny thing” which competes for Mom’s and Dad’s attention. They also begin to see the dog as a friend. The dog still views the child as a littermate. You can expect a lot of ear pulling and tail yanking with children of this age. Your dog should be willing to tolerate a little of this, but don’t expect him to become your child’s punching bag.
Monitor all interactions between the dog and child. Teach the child appropriate games such as “Fetch” and “Hide and Seek” that he can play with the dog to avoid physical contact and roughness. Put the dog in a quiet place alone if there are lots of kids over visiting. It is difficult to supervise, and lots of running and screaming can illicit instinctive aggressive displays from some dogs.
Don’t allow tug–of–war games or wrestling games. This will encourage aggressive displays from your dog.
Don’t allow your children to be rough with the dog. “NO” is not enough––show your child how to pet gently and play “Fetch” with the dog.
This is the age when your children can begin to show leadership with your dog. This is a good time to have your children participate in the care of the dog (feeding, walking, and training). Children of this age make excellent trainers––they are usually more consistent and playful in their training than adults.
Include your children in obedience training, feeding and walking of the dog. Assign dog chores to children based on interest and ability rather than age or gender. Supervise all activities with groups of children. Too much commotion can be overwhelming to most dogs.
Don’t expect your child to take full responsibility for the dog. A dog needs much more time and attention than a child can give. If you (the adult) don’t want to accept responsibility, don’t get the dog.
Age 11 and up
At this age children become more interested in their own activities than the dog. This is normal and can be expected. However, there is no reason to expect the child loves the dog any less. The child will still rely on the dog, especially during stressful times. The adults in the family should be prepared to give the dog more attention when his favorite child pal starts spending more time with friends and social activities.
Introducing a New Arrival
The introduction of a new baby into a household which already contains a dog is an important event for the dog. Here are some tips to make the introduction and transition period more successful.
While awaiting your new arrival:
Consult your veterinarian and be sure your dog is healthy and free of any parasites. Take your dog to obedience school, if he hasn’t already been. The most important command for your dog to know an know well is down–stay. This will allow your dog to be a member of the household without being a nuisance. If you have an overly dependent dog, start building his independence through obedience or consulting a behaviorist. Overly dependent dogs are more likely to show rivalry and cause you problems after the baby comes. Introduce your dog to the nursery (don’t bar him from it) and to the sounds of a newborn (via tape recordings if possible).
After the Baby Arrives
While the baby is in the hospital, wrap it in your own receiving blanket for about a half hour. Then, Dad should take the blanket home with him and introduce the baby’s smell to the dog. When you bring the baby home, let your dog say hello by sitting down and holding the baby securely in your arms low enough for the dog to see and smell the baby. Talk calmly and quietly to the dog. Whatever you do, don’t panic and scream at the dog. Chances are if the dog isn’t behaving itself it’s your own fault––the dog needs more training!
The first few weeks will be a stressful transition period for everyone in the family, including the dog. BE PATIENT! Don’t feel you have to accept the dog being under foot all the time, but don’t kick him in the backyard for 16 hours at a stretch either. Give him a chance to get used to the new activity, smells and sounds. In two to four weeks, the dog should settle down and feel at ease with the new little one. If not, consult a trainer or behaviorist to determine if there are underlying problems. NEVER leave your dog alone with your infant! Use a playpen. Accidents do happen. Remember, your dog is an animal and has instincts and reactions that are not human. Protect your dog from your infant (when he gets mobile) by creating a safe, off–limits place for your dog to go when it wants to be alone.