Anyone who’s ever seen a Disney movie knows that kids and dogs belong together! Running, frolicking, plotting… getting in and out of mischief together…. Who would ever suggest any other way to live, right?!? Wrong!
Kids and dogs can be a winning combination, but more often then not, where they exist together, there can be danger lurking in the wings. A few elements are key to ensuring kids and dogs can cohabitate without danger to either:
1 – Supervision by a capable adult: This is the most crucial thing we could ever suggest. It only takes a split-second for a dog to bite and cause serious damage. People constantly tell us that their dog would never bite. WRONG! Every dog will bite given the right circumstances. To ensure any inappropriate behaviours by the dog or by the child are nipped in the bud, it’s crucial that a capable adult is actively involved in supervising the interaction.
2 – Boundaries for the dog: Teaching the dog that they are not allowed to take things from the child without permission is an important lesson. Other rules in regards to chasing, jumping up and nipping are also important to teach the dog consistently and well.
3 – Boundaries for the child: Teaching the child to respect the dog and their space is equally important. The dog should always have a safe spot they can go to if they start to feel overwhelmed. A crate is ideal. Children should know to NEVER disturb the dog in their safe spot. Rules regarding hugging, pulling on ears, tail, etc. should be well ingrained in the child. Again, supervision will ensure the rules are adhered to.
4 – Bite Inhibition: Despite our best efforts, there may be a time when a child accidentally causes pain to a dog by falling or stepping on them. Dogs who learn good bite inhibition are less likely to bite in these situations and if they do, they are less likely to bite hard. A good obedience or puppy program can help you teach your puppy or dog to inhibit their bite.
5 – Management and Training: If a puppy or dog shows hostility or resentment towards a child, find a qualified behaviourist immediately. Don’t make excuses for the dog and don’t take chances on the child’s safety. See if a behaviourist thinks the situation is manageable and make an appropriate decision from there. Nothing should compromise the child’s safety. A dog who has a low tolerance for children will need special training and care to keep them from doing harm.
With a little care, kids and dogs can be a winning combination!