Dogs and children can be wonderful friends. A dog can teach a child responsibility, help them cope through different development stages as well as provide emotional support and unconditional companionship.
At Found by the Hound we believe that the best way to ensure harmony in the household and for your dog to remain an integral part of the family is when everybody, including your children have a strong understanding of the best way to train and behave around your family pet.
It is important that children are taught the skills to behave appropriately around animals. You, as the parent, need to ensure that you recognise and prevent any problems that may arise. Be proactive rather than reactive and maintain supervision during interactions. Provide guidance to your children to assist them in learning what is acceptable interaction with a dog and what is unacceptable.
Here are some of our top tips for parents living with both small children and dogs:
1. Teach your children to practice calm behaviour
We understand that children can be excitable, boisterous and the complete opposite of calm, but for the purpose of safely cohabitating with a dog, it’s important to ensure that when children and dogs interact it is with a calm and gentle demeanour.
It is important for you to educate and show your child how to be calm and still when coming into contact with your dog. Rough pats, tail pulling, fast movements, running around and loud shrieks can frighten, threaten or even activate prey drive which may cause your dog to react in an undesirable way.
2. Supervise your child and dog when they are together
Children and dogs alike can be unpredictable. It’s important for you to supervise your child when they come into contact with your dog. As mentioned above, a dog’s behaviour can change quickly so it’s imperative that you are making sure you are constantly watching the situation at all times.
If you are unable to supervise, ensure your dog is placed in a safe area away from children, until you can monitor interactions. The same goes for playing in the yard, playing a game of fetch, a walk around the street or just hanging around. Children and dogs should always be supervised by an adult.
3. Extensive training of your puppy or dog
Whether your dog is big or small, young or senior – training for the purpose of child safety is paramount to maintaining a happy, and harmonious home. Mouthing and biting is a behaviour common with puppies and young dogs, this is also something that needs to be discouraged early to avoid hurting small fingers, toes, arms, legs and especially faces. At Found by the Hound we specialise in giving new owners the tools needed to deter unwanted mouthing and biting.
Training your dog to sit or drop in the presence of your child is also a great tool to ensure your dog is always taught to be calm around your little ones. Our Senior Trainer, Sarah has a full house of young children and dogs and Sarah ensures that all of her dogs know to sit or drop in the presence of her young children.
When training your dog to have nice manners around the children, a simple tool that people often overlook is a lead. If you are just beginning your training, always use a lead so that you have control.
4. Walk, don’t run!
A dog, being a predator, is born with natural drives and instincts. Some dogs are born with a high food drive. Some dogs are born a bit more defensive than others and dogs that are prey driven are often triggered by movement, high pitched sounds (such as squeaky toys or excited squealing/yelling), cats and small animals, passing bicycles, scooters, skateboards and many other moving activities young children partake in.
If your dog has a higher prey drive, it’s important to educate your child to be calm and walk when in the presence of the dog. Encouraging a game of chase may be fun for your child but it could mean something completely different for your dog and may end up causing injury, or worse.
5. Include your child in the training
It must be understood that you as the adult will be responsible for the training, but it can also be a great tool to encourage your child to be involved so that they know how the dog should and shouldn’t be behaving (i.e. deterring jumping).
If you have opted to crate train your dog, educating your child on why the crate has been implemented is important so that they can respect the process and the dog when the dog is in his safe and quiet place.
6. Food aggression
It is important that your child understands that dogs can become protective and possibly aggressive when it comes to their meals, special treats, bones, and sometimes precious possessions. At dinner time, your child needs to understand that your dog should not be interrupted.
For more information about how to keep the household happy (and in one piece), contact the team at Found by the Hound!
(note: unfortunately we do not train children, husbands, wives or significant others to behave but happy to help with your dog)
Team Found By The Hound