Children and Dogs - Training Your Child?
Most children absolutely love dogs, the soft fur, the cute faces, and the wiggly tail all give them a great big grin! They can't help but feel the urge to reach out and stroke, touch and, sometimes, grab!
Unfortunately, this sometimes causes our dogs to feel worried around children (and adults) and can lead to some negative interactions - our children are just being kids, and our dogs are just being dogs! So, how do we make this relationship a bit more peaceful for both?
It's really important to teach our children how to interact with dogs appropriately. Heres some quick tips on ensuring interactions keep everyone happy!
Young children, in particular, struggle to understand what is and isn't ok as they are used to grabbing, pulling, and climbing as a form of interaction. If they are too young to understand or behave appropriately around your dog, always supervise interactions or keep them separated. This ensures that both dog and child are safe, and you can step in before any issues arise.
Keep interactions soft and gentle! Dogs are not horses. They don't want to be climbed on or sat on. Their skeletal system is not strong enough to hold a childs weight (yes, this applies to big dogs, too!), so it can really hurt when this happens. A lot of bites and snaps happen when a child is climbing on or over a dog as pain will cause a much quicker escalation of stress. Keep to the hobby horse to keep that relationship positive!
No pulling, grabbing, or hugging. If your dog hasn't bitten or "shown issues" during a hug or rough handling, you're either lucky or have a very tolerant dog. Most dogs feel very uncomfortable with the restraint of a hug or any rough handling. Teach your child the 3 second rule instead - slow and gentle strokes down the back or under the neck. This type of handling helps to increase the "happy hormones" and increases the dogs' feelings of safety.
Know your dog! Teach your child what a dog is trying to say. Have a look at this article to learn more about stress signals and what certain behaviours mean.
Teach your child to give your dog space! Don't interrupt eating or sleeping and give unwell/sick dogs space. This reduces the chance of resource guarding and building negative associations between resources and your child.
Use baby gates and dog pens to keep babies and toddlers separated from your dog - especially while your child is eating! Once a dog steals food, they learn that this is a rewarding behaviour and may try again and again!
Make It Fun!
When it comes to interacting, try to keep all experiences positive. Heres a few ideas and dog training tricks you can get your child to teach your dog!
This trick course has some fun tricks you and your child can teach your dog or puppy. It will help you and your child learn timing and the importance of appropriate reinforcement!
Get your child involved with enrichment activities. Children have great imaginations - use this to your advantage! Get them involved with building elaborate enrichment activities for your dog.
Get them involved with scent work in the garden or house! Get them to hide the kibble and leave kibble trails for your dog - children love this!
Show them what appropriate play looks like and get them involved in a game of tug or fetch!
Any dog can snap, be it adult, rescue, or puppy. We all have a tolerance level, and so do our dogs - be your dogs' advocate.
Bites happen from lack of information, read the body language blog carefully so you know when to step in - it may help you with other dog training issues you may have!
Teaching children how to interact keeps them safe in their own home, but also in other peoples homes and when interacting with dogs outside. So many households now have a dog these days, knowing how to interact with them should be seen as a life skill.