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Dogs and Children

Mon, 01/11/2010 - 10:34am

Ten Rules of a Good Relationship Between

Dogs & Kids

(Teach Your Children Well)

  1.  Make it a rule that the Adult Owner Must Be Present For Any Children To Play With The Dog.
  2.  Teach Children Never To Run At Or Chase the Dog, to Let The Dog Come to Them.
  3.  Teach Children That They Must Move Slowly Around Dogs, Not to Run.
  4.  Teach Children Never to Grab, Hit or Pull on Any Part of the Dog.
  5.  Teach Children Never to Try to Pet a Dog on a Chain, Behind a Fence, In a Doghouse or Crate, or Though a Car Window.
  6.  Teach Children Never to Step Over or Bend Over a Dog.
  7.  Teach Children Never to Stare at a Dog.
  8.  Teach Children Not to Scream or Yell Near a Dog.
  9.  Teach Children What an Angry Dog Looks Like and To Stop Playing With an Angry Dog.
  10.  Teach children how to make their hands into a "plate" to feed the dog treats.

Before a new baby arrives:    

Exercise Schedule                                                                                                                                    
Put dog on a regular exercise routine. Look around for someone else to participate in this exercise schedule. This could be a neighbor who likes to run and wouldn't mind company or a teenager that likes dogs and wouldn't mind earning some spending money. Ask this person to help out before the baby is born, so that they are already used to the idea after the baby arrives.

Control Attention-Getting
When dog wants your attention, make her sit first. Do not respond to attention-getting behaviors like whining...you will not be able to when the new baby arrives. Accustoming the dog to the fact that you were not put in this world to pet her at her every wish will save you from attention-seeking problem behavior later.

Change Furniture Rights
If your dog jumps up on couches whenever he pleases, he may also do so in cribs or on beds where the baby may be sleeping. Teach your dog the command "Up!" to allow him up on a couch and "Off!" if he jumps up uninvited. Again, these habits need to be formed before the arrival of the baby.

Stop Wild Games in the House
If your dog is used to jumping over furniture and knocking over lamps to get a thrown ball, he will not instantly change his behavior when an infant is in his path. Bring these games outdoors and encourage quieter activities in the house like bone-chewing. Do not encourage games like tug-of-war; eventually the dog will expect the small human to play these games and fighting over toys is not good for kids or dogs.

Teach Your Dog That It Is O.K. to Be Ignored
The tendency for most expectant parents/dog owners is to lavish attention on the dog, anticipating that they will not have enough time after the baby arrives. This is the worst thing to do, since it sets the dog up for a big shock the instant the baby arrives. Practice ignoring your dog and then reward her for long periods of quiet waiting. In fact, if you boost up the amount of attention the dog gets the instant the baby arrives, you'll find your dog wagging her tail the instant you or anyone else approaches the baby.

Expose You Dog to Children
Invite friends with children to visit, and have the children give your dog a treat. Insist that the dog not jump on them or get too excited and make sure the children stay calm. Decide on either a sit or a down as a position for petting (whatever your dog is most comfortable with). Next, bring your dog to a playground among very active children. Praise her for wagging her tail but do not attempt to "soothe" her for barking nervously at the kids; soothing her will be misinterpreted as praise and she will think barking at kids is what you want her to do.

Teach Your Dog the Difference Between His Toys and the Baby's Toys
Buy a bunch of baby's toys ahead of time and "scent mark" them with a small dab of Listerine. Place them one or two on the floor among one or two of the dog's toys. Allow the dog to go over and sniff them. If he picks up a baby toy, tell him "leave it!" and take it out of his mouth. If he picks up his own toy, tell him "good boy!" and reward him with a treat or lots of praise. Repeat this game until he no longer picks up the baby toys. Keep mental notes on which types of toys he has a harder time ignoring.

Accustom Your Dog to Screams, Squeals, Grasping, and Hugs
Most dogs raised with adults associate loud voices with trouble; thus, when they hear children crying loudly they often become frightened, thinking they have done something wrong. The very first thing to do is to stop yelling at your dog or hitting him in order to punish him. Hitting him teaches the dog to fear fast movements; children are masters of both loud noises and fast movements. Instead, approach your dog and suddenly say "DOG!" and then praise him. Work him up to the point of being able to run up to him screaming "DOG!" and then pet him vigorously. While this may seem silly for an adult to do it is a very common and predicable behavior in children. Turn the television up loud while your dog is eating so that he learns that loud noises can be associated with something pleasant.

Babies grab, hold, tug, poke, and yank; while you will not want to allow your child to do these things, you should assume that she will do them the minute you aren't looking. As you pet your dog, gently take a fold of skin and hold onto it while praising your dog. Wiggle it around and then give him a treat. Work your dog up to grabbing quickly and more firmly, but never harshly or painfully. Hugging is also something children like to do; if you don't already hug your dog, start hugging and then work up to hugging and holding the hug.

Bringing the Baby Home

Think Ahead
While your first day home will be filled with many concerns, do not forget your canine companion will be waiting for you and anxious for your return. Arrange to have your dog walked or exercised before your arrival. Have one person without the baby get out of the car to greet the dog, then switch, leaving the baby with the other person in the car. Not only does this calm your dog down, but it allows your dog to smell your baby's scent on your hands and associate that new scent with you first. Leave a leash on your dog, then bring the baby out. If the dog shows some curiosity, praise him warmly but calmly. Do not focus on the meeting of the dog and baby...that will happen. Instead, have the person without the baby focus on the dog, praising the dog to emphasize that this new "object" in his life is a very positive thing for him.

Crates and Playpens
As an infant, your baby is immediately accustomed to a crib, and when your baby reaches the toddler stage, you will greatly depend on your playpen as a means of protecting your child and keeping her from any harm. In the same way, your dog's crate can be its own safe haven. If you do not already own one, talk to your veterinarian or a local dog trainer about crates for dogs; most people who have them do not know how the rest of the world lives without them. Do not allow children's toys or children in the crate and remove all dog's toys from playpens so that the distinction is clear to everyone.


Do not allow your child to do anything to your dog that you would not want him to do to another child.

Remember, out of sight probably equals into trouble. Most problems occur between children and dogs when no one is watching. It only takes a second for a pencil to be poked into an ear and for a bite to occur; you will arrive way too late to know why the bite happened. Use your crate and your playpen if you cannot watch both parties interact; do nor assume anything about either one.

Remember that a dog can only do so many things to get away from a child; run, hop up on furniture, or go under a bed; after that, his only recourse is to growl or bite. If you see your dog retreating from your child, trust your dog and stop the child! Anticipate problems before they happen. If your dog has growled at your child, anticipate that a bite is next, even if your dog has never bitten anyone. Try to determine why the growl occurred. If you cannot identify the reason the dog is threatened by the child, seek the advice of a dog trainer or behaviorist.

Follow Through:
If you tell your child to stop bothering the dog, enforce it. If you tell your dog to stop licking the child, enforce it. Both must know the rules are real.

Do not allow your child to hit, tease or man-handle your dog. Even if you don't ever witness your child doing these things, anticipate that kids will be kids and take the time to explain the right ways and the wrong ways to interact with a dog. Do not be afraid to educate your child's playmates as well. Think about why your dog reacts the way he does to certain situations -- have you trained him to do things with you that he's not supposed to do with smaller humans? Don't expect him to have natural "Lassie-like" intuition. Take the time to teach him the difference between playing with you and playing with he child. Put a word command to as many behaviors as possible so that you are able to communicate with him. Be sure to heap the praise on both the dog and the child for the right kinds of interactions and plan constructive acitivities for the children and dogs to do together.

Food Bowl Safety:

Distinguish Who's Bowls Are Who's
First, you must absolutely STOP feeding the dog from the table. It must be made clear that his food comes from his dish. Food scraps can be put in his dish, but teach your dog to wait until you say "o.k." before he is allowed to his food, especially in the case of table scraps.

Teach your dog "leave it" by putting a biscuit in your hand and not allowing him to have it.  Work him up to putting it down on the floor and having him walk by without taking it.

Children Are Not Allowed Near the Bowl
Make it very clear to your child that the bowl belongs to the dog and that no hands are allowed in it. Feed the dog while the family is eating or in a place away from the children. Out of sight from the child, adults should accustom the dog to having food, treats, and bones taken right out of their mouths. Always praise heartily if the dog accepts this.

Giving and Taking Treats Gently
Teach your child to give the dog a treat with his palm out flat "like a dish". Teach your dog to gently take a treat from your closed hand, allowing him to have it if he licks, but not allowing him to have it if he uses his teeth and scolding him for the use of teeth. (Be sure to teach him "leave it" and "o.k."   first.)