Guest Blogger, Curtiss Lanham CPDT-KA
Children and dogs: what a beautiful image that our minds immediately race to. The ‘Timmy and Lassie’ portrait is quickly conjured up…and they lived happily ever after. Not so fast…
The interesting thing is that kids don’t come pre-progrmmed to know how to interact properly with dogs, any more than dogs come pre-programmed to interact properly with kids. Read: adults now have to step-in and do something positive to ensure they do live happily ever after. So what can we adults do to ensure that our kids and our dogs will get along safely and happily? Here are three areas that we can concentrate on in this effort: Training-Socialization-Supervision
Training our Children
- To respect the dog’s space, food and toys
- To not treat the dog as a toy: don’t pull ears/tail/paws/nose, don’t ride the dog, don’t pull the dog around by it’s collar
- To refrain from hugging dogs around the neck or put their face into the dog’s face
- To refrain from screeching, screaming and squealing at the dog
- To play ball, fetch, etc., but ONLY under adult supervision.
Training our Dogs
- To know that children bring happy, fun things and are pleasant to engage with.
- To trust that only good things happen with children
- To respond to requests (sit, down, come, etc.) when asked by children so that they can communicate effectively together and strengthen their relationships
- To understand the expectations of the household they live in
Socialize our Children
- To dogs at an early age and expose them to a variety of breeds often and safely, but ONLY under adult supervision.
Socialize our dogs
- To children at an early age (3 weeks to 3 months of age, if possible). Expose them to a variety of children often and safely, but ONLY under adult supervision. These meetings must always have a ‘happy ending’ for the puppy and the child.
- All interactions between children and dogs
- Be watchful to ensure the children do not mishandle/mistreat the dog
- Be watchful to ensure the dog is not stressed during the encounter: Stress signals may include some/ all of the following: yawning, lip licking, turning head/eyes away, lowering head/ears/tail, slinking away, crouching/hiding. Distance increasing signals by the dog may include some/all of the following: lip lifting, low growl, snarling, showing teeth, air snapping, etc. If any of these are observed, end the session immediately, quietly and calmly exit the child from the dog. Refrain from punishing the dog.
- Ensure proper meet/greet by child
- If you cannot supervise then exit the child from the dog so there is no possibility of improper encounter by either the dog or child
By putting this plan into action with your children and dogs your family will be on the road to loving, safe relationships. Relationships that transcend even the ‘Lassie and Timmy’ connection!
Houston/Katy Dog Trainer Curtiss Lanham, CPDT-KA is the co-owner of dogsmart, a Fulshear based canine behavior counseling and training group.