Kids and dogs usually get along just fine. They can be great playmates and having a dog around can teach kids a lot about respect and kindness for our animal friends. But problems may arise when kids and dogs are left unsupervised or training has been neglected. This can lead to aggressive behavior and may result in injury. There are 4.7 million dog bites a year in the USA and half of these victims are children. It is a well known fact that 9 out of 10 victims knew the dog in question. It was either a neighbor’s dog or the family pet. One study showed that the family pet was responsible for about 30% of bites.
The bottom line is that children and dogs need training so that they can learn to respect their territories. Here are 11 tips if you happen to be a dog owner which is in contact with kids or you have a dog at home when children are born.
1. Dogs need to be trained
If your dog is part of the family, make sure that you have dedicated time for basic training so that when kids play around him, there are no problems. This is easier if the dog is a puppy so that you can start early on. Dogs should not be allowed in the dining room or kitchen at mealtimes because this can set off a whole series of incidents and problems and may end up with the dog trying to steal the child’s food. Basic obedience training needs to cover the following:
- Walking with a leash
Using treats such as food, favorite toys or physical contact such as a tummy rub are great ways to reward the dog as it makes progress. You also need to be calm and consistent and avoid any punishing treatment which will turn the dog off training for ever.
2. Supervise kids and dogs playing
This is essential as kids have to get used to dogs and how they react to being played with. Many dogs cannot stand all the shouting and shrieking. At least, if you have started with the basic training, it is fairly easy to keep things under control. Experts say that kids should be at least four years old before they can be left alone with dogs but you have to be the best judge of that. There is some excellent advice in the book by Colleen Pelar, Living with Kids and Dogs . . . Without Losing Your Mind: A Parent’s Guide to Controlling the Chaos (Volume 2)
3. Kids need training, too
You have to teach toddlers from early on to respect the dog’s territorial limits. No dog likes the facial close-ups or being stared at in the eyes. Also teaching the child early on to teach the dog to sit is a good way to start.
In addition, kids have to become aware that there may be problems if the dog is playing with a toy and the child comes too close. Similar problems could arise when the dog is eating his food.
They also need to be careful about poking things into the dog’s ears or yanking its tail. Teaching the child about how a dog reacts to pain, aggression or fright is important, too.
4. Think about having your dog neutered
There are some advantages in this as the dog tends to be less aggressive and also will not bother too much about roaming. That could save him or her from being put down or ending up in misery in an animal shelter. Also female dogs will urinate less, thereby avoiding intrusion by neighbors’ dogs looking for a mating partner. This makes for a quieter home life for dogs, parents and kids alike.
5. Dogs need their space, too
There will be times when it is not appropriate that the dog is around such as when a toddler is learning to walk. A dog also wants a bit of peace and quiet so creating a space for them in a back room, or outside if the weather is clement, is a good idea. Very young children should not have access to the dog’s private area. You can find a kennel or crate or both. It also reduces a lot of the mess when older dogs become incontinent. Pet doors or dog flaps to their own area is an excellent idea as it saves you or the kids opening the door for them all the time!
6. Dogs can be helped with homeopathic medicine
When dogs get too nervous, agitated or stressed out, you may find that there is a lot of barking, scratching and growling going on. This can sometimes happen when the pet is under stress or there has been past abuse. A great way to avoid any problems with the kids is to administer a homeopathic remedy which can calm the pet down. Look for remedies which contain Scutellaria, Chamomilla, Arsen alb and Belladonna. It makes life easier for everybody.
7. Choosing the right dog
There may come a time when your kids really want a dog or you may have to replace a previous pet. There are several things to bear in mind when choosing one:
- Large dogs may knock children over too easily
- Guard dogs may not be appropriate
- Dogs who bark a lot are not recommended
- Consider certain breeds of dogs which are more adapted to families such as beagles, bulldogs and labradors.
- Avoid highly strung and hysterical small dogs
8. Monitor your dog training
Dog experts recommend that you watch out for problem areas which may indicate that more dog training is needed. You may find that the dog jumps up on children or growls and snaps at them. At this point you may have to be much stricter with the obedience training and more vigilant in your supervision.
9. Teach children how to treat dogs gently
It is amazing to see how some children are always tugging, poking and pinching dogs and most of the time, dogs put up with it. But one day, they will react and there could be serious consequences.
It is much better to teach kids how to pet a dog and they can practise with a toy before trying their gentle strokes on the dog.
10. When dogs bark too much
Sometimes dogs will bark at the slightest noise and this may be a problem with a sleeping baby or adults. There are electronic anti-barking collars available now and this may be one solution. Another possibility is to move the dog as far away as possible while the baby is sleeping.
11. Decide on sleeping arrangements
It is incredible that some parents allow their kids to sleep with the family pet. This can lead to enormous problems down the road, not least with hygiene and behavior. Obviously, the dog must have his own bed, preferably in its own private area.
If parents are committed to living together in harmony with a dog, they will need to dedicate time and effort to make sure that the experience is a happy one for the whole family.
Let us know how your kids and dogs get along together in the comments and how you prevented any problems from developing.
Featured photo credit: Jules and the boys/Kristopher Volkman via flickr.com