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Kids and Dogs: Learning and Growing Cooperatively

August 2, 2016

By Cindy Reitz

Safety and Respect:
Whether it’s your family dog or a less familiar one, it is important that our children are safe when interacting with dogs.

By nature, children and dogs do things that stimulate each other when together. Children get excited, squeal, move quickly and erratically, wave their hands about, grab, and run. These behaviors stimulate dogs. The dogs get excited, jump up, chase, and, because they don’t have hands, grab with their mouths. This makes the children squeal more, which further stimulates the dog, and so on and so forth.

Dogs feel pain, get tired, and have moods and thoughts of their own, just like we do. If we do not protect our dogs, they will feel the need to protect themselves, and this usually involves their teeth. Therefore, SUPERVISION IS KEY!!

We can help children have a wonderful, cooperative relationship with the dogs in their lives by teaching them to respect dogs and to follow a few simple rules. Because fast movement and high pitched noises stimulate dogs, teach children to move calmly and quietly around dogs. Teach your dog not to chase children by putting him on leash and distracting him with treats or a game while children are running and moving about the yard and house. If you are unable to directly supervise the play session, consider separating the two. There is no harm in this as long as your dog is getting sufficient attention and exercise.

Dogs have a very clear sense of what is ‘fair’. Teasing is not fair. Neither is poking them with sticks, hitting them with hands or any other object, kicking them, pretending to hit them to scare them, or poking things into their eyes or up their nose. Young children do these things with little thought as to the consequences so again supervision and prevention are key to making sure your child remains safe.

Children often seem to have boundless energy and wish to play with their dogs far longer than the dog has tolerance for. It is important to recognize when your dog is tired or has had enough. Teach children that there are times when they must not interact with the dog, but must ‘give him a break’. Provide your dog with a ‘safe place,’ such as a crate or a corner of a room, where she can go to be left alone that is ‘off limits’ to the children.

Bringing home Baby:
Sometimes dogs experience confusion and jealousy when a new baby joins the family. There are several things you can do to make the transition go smoothly.

Be sure to continue giving your dog plenty of attention as you prepare for your new arrival. He will be curious and will want to smell all of the new items brought into the house. Take a small blanket or an old T-shirt along to the hospital and place it in the crib with Baby. The day before bringing Baby home, take the blanket home, which now smells like Baby, and give it to your dog. Make a fuss over the dog and his new ‘prize’, being sure to mention the dog’s name and Baby’s name frequently: “Oh my, Fido! Who is that? Is that Baby? What a good Fido! Baby is coming home soon!”

When arriving home with Baby, your dog will be VERY happy to see Mom, who has been gone for several days, and will have little regard for the fact that you have a baby in your arms. Have someone put Fido outside before Mom and Baby enter the house. Get Baby settled in her bed, and then greet Fido as you would any other time you return home.

After settling in, it’s time for introductions. Wrap Baby securely in a blanket and let Fido smell Baby until your dog becomes bored. Again, talk pleasantly to Fido saying his name and Baby’s name frequently. If your dog will take treats gently, periodically place small treats on Baby and have Fido take them. When holding Baby, praise Fido and give him a treat frequently.

Fido should believe that Baby made his life better, and not to resent Baby’s presence.

There’s a toddler in the house!
Toddlers, more than any other age group, do things that very much stimulate dogs. Quick and erratic movements, staring, crying, invading personal space, and extending hands holding food with no intention of sharing, are just a few things toddlers do that make this a difficult mix.

Teach your dog the ‘Move’ command. When he’s had enough of what ‘s going on around him, he needs to find a quiet place to go instead. Say ‘Move’ and show him a spot to go to and tell him to ‘Lie down’. If he returns, but seems uncomfortable, repeat the process.

This is the time to teach your child that animals have rights and to respect them. Your toddler needs to show respect to your dog just as you expect your dog to respect your child Teach your toddler not to disturb your dog when he in his quiet place.
That you provide constant, direct supervision between the two cannot be stressed enough.

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