14 Sep Introducing your kids to dogs
Introducing your kids to dogs – I love dogs and have done so ever since I was a child and met our first dog Bray a handsome German Sheppard. I know firsthand that a kid can be best friends with a dog, dogs are great companions and can also teach the kids a lot about responsibility when taking care of a dog. With that said there can be issues with dogs and kids, here are a few things that are worth bearing in mind when considering getting a dog when you have a child.
Depending on the age/height of your kid/s they can literally be in your dogs face, this on its own can be quite threatening to a dog. As many of you will already know, young kids can also be loud, animated and very “hands on”, again all this can be very unnerving to your dog. Also, smaller kids may not be able to read the dogs discomfort or distress at their own actions. Chances are the kids don’t realise that the dog’s body language or growls mean the dog wants them to back away.
Another thing to bear in mind is that dogs are pack animals and while they tend to see adults as alphas kids can be seen as equals or even a lower-ranking pack member. A more assertive dog may bark or snarl and possibly snap at a kid to keep them in line as part of the pack, this is the dog just being a dog and communicating the only way it knows how. This is when most bite injuries are likely to happen and is something to consider when getting a dog.
I have friends who have dogs who just don’t love kids, dogs that have not had much contact with kids or possibly even had bad experiences with kids in the past. If a dog has had bad experiences with kids in the past chances they may not be able to trust again.
An important rule of thumb with kids and dogs is to supervise them at all times. This really applies if you have very young kids, it’s like leaving two toddlers in a room alone, eventually something’s bound to go wrong.
Don’t be one of those dog owners who say things like “my dog would never react.” when talking about your dog interacting with kids. The best dog in the world could potentially growl, bark, nip or even bite if it has been frightened or hurt. Also from the other point of view, you don’t want your kid to be the type that doesn’t know how to behave around a dog. For instance, you will want to show your kid/s how to interact with a new dog.
First offer the dog a closed fist to sniff, if the dog seems ok with this move onto gently stroking the dogs head and neck. Avoid areas such as tail, ear belly and paws as these are sensitive, also using a quiet voice to not startle the dog is a good idea, as well as NOT being rough with the dog is best for all involved (no pushing, pulling or poking the dog).
Let your kid/s know that they should never put their face near a new dog’s face. As well as to keep clear of a dog when they are eating or sleeping. Rough play can encourage aggression, so is best to be avoided. Show your kids the right way to play with the dog and that teasing is a bad idea.
Teach your kids that when meeting a new dog that they should always get permission first. All other dogs should be ignored, such as dog tied up outside shops, in front of houses or behind gates or fences.
When your kid/s get to about six or seven it’s a good time to get them involved in caring for your dog. They can start by filling food and water bowls. At the time of writing this, my oldest child is seven and the dog is a Rottweiler, so her taking the dog for the walk is not practical due to the size of her compared to the dog. So as she gets older we will let her walk the dog as it becomes more feasible.
A good piece of advice I was given that has served me well, is to put your dog in a sit and stay position before letting your kids approach the dog. This will remind your dog that they are a subordinate, this way they won’t feel the need to put this to the test.
Another gem I was given was that when you have a baby due that it’s a good idea to start to introduce new baby items (prams, car seats and general baby equipment), this helps the dog adjust before the baby arrives. Once my first child was born (but still in hospital), I brought some of the babies used blankets (that had the babies scent) home and let my 2 dogs (at the time) sniff and get used to the smell. This helped when the baby came home as it was not as much of a shock for the two dogs.
The last bit of advice I was given by a friend (something they went through), was that if the dog does show repeated aggression towards your kid/s then you need to get professional advice from your vet as soon as possible. I haven’t had to do this myself but it seems like pretty sound advice, better to be safe than sorry.
So, that’s my advice on Introducing your kids to dogs, Thanks for reading. As always if you have any comments or you have any advice yourself please leave a comment below it would be great to hear from you.