Kids and Canines

posted May 7th, 2016 by
  • Share
What's in Your Dog Shampoo

Kids and Canines – Training 911

By Mary Green

 

My mailbox has been full lately with questions about kids and dogs. I grew up with dogs, and there were dogs in our household when my son was growing up. So from my perspective, kids and animals go together like peanut butter and jelly. But you must have a good plan of action and realistic expectations of the amount of work involved. And understand that all dogs aren’t Lassie, and all kids aren’t Timmy.

What’s a good age for a child to get a dog? School-aged children can help a lot with a dog! They can learn how to measure the dog food and scoop it into the dog bowl. Feeding the dog presents a great opportunity for the dog to learn some self-control, like sit and wait for food. If you teach the kids, and the dog, the kids can help brush the dog’s fur. Taking the dog for a walk should be a family activity—there should always be an adult present.

There are two very important rules for children to learn: Never touch or bother a dog while he is eating, and leave sleeping dogs alone. Obeying these simple rules reduces potential dog bites.

One mother writes, “How can I get my  16-week-old puppy to play gently with my kids. They are 1 and 3 years old.” My answer may not have been quite what mom wanted to hear. At 16 weeks of age, the puppy needs to be in a good training class, learning how to “sit” on cue, take treats gently, and how to settle. And the adults need to be training the pup.

A 1-year-old child is too young to play with a puppy. Children in this age range don’t generally have a concept of “personal space” that a dog may need. They also love to hug dogs (which dogs do not like), and they pursue dogs no matter where the dog tries to go! Every interaction between the puppy and the 1-year-old must be closely supervised by an adult. We certainly don’t want the puppy and the baby to be afraid of each other, so don’t segregate them—but supervision is essential to ensure a positive experience for them both.

A 1-year-old can learn how to properly pet a dog. Preferably an older, calm dog to start with! Use a stuffed dog if an older, calm dog isn’t available. The puppy can learn that cool things happen when the baby is around. If the baby is present, the puppy can be rewarded for calm behavior.

The 3-year-old child can give basic cues, such as sit, lie down, and stay, once the puppy understands these behaviors. Kids of this age can deliver a treat to the puppy, as long as the puppy has learned to take treats gently. Again, every interaction is well supervised by an adult. Playing together means there is a toy for the dog. It does not mean wrestling or chasing! It does not mean teasing the puppy with the toy. The child can toss the toy away and see the puppy get it—the puppy may not bring it back, but the interaction provides a positive experience for the puppy.

From another parent: “My 7-year-old son has been begging us to get him a dog. I don’t really have time for a dog, but he has his heart set. Is he old enough?”

Two (anonymous) quotes come to mind when I hear this question. “Every boy should have two things: a dog, and a mother willing to let him have one,” and “Every boy who has a dog should also have a mother, so the dog can be fed regularly.”

At 7 years of age, basically your son can feed and water the dog. He cannot be responsible for walking the dog. He cannot drive the dog to training class, and he needs a lot of support to train the dog. He can play with the dog if he is taught how to do so appropriately (no chasing, no wrestling). That being said, a dog can be a great friend to your son! As they both grow up, they can have a great relationship and do lots of things together. Just be realistic that for the time being, the majority of dog duties will fall to the adults.

“I’ve told my boys that if they don’t stop tormenting our dog he’s gonna bite them.” “Yes,” I thought. “He sure will.”

 Teasing a dog is a great way to provoke a bite. Teasing, tormenting, bullying, and scaring are not fun for a dog to experience. Younger kids may be able to understand   this if parents can relate it to how the kids feel when they are teased, bullied or tormented. Again, if proper adult super-vision is happening, this will stop! And don’t threaten to “get rid of the dog” if the kids’ (or dog’s) behavior doesn’t improve. 

Some dogs that have not been around children are fine, while others are very uncomfortable. Dogs that are used to children of a certain age may be wary of younger or older children. Your family dog may be safe and trustworthy around your own kids, but may not be safe around visiting children. Be smart! Do whatever management you need to in order to keep everyone safe. My advice to one pet owner whose grandchildren were coming to visit from out of state was to board her dog when they were here. It would be less stress on the family and less stress on the dog!

Each year nearly 2.8 million children are bitten by a dog. Most of these bites are not coming from some scary dog that got loose. Sensational stories make headlines, but most dog bites are more commonplace. Half come from the family’s own dog, and another 40 percent come from a friend or neighbor’s dog.*

I know that kids and dogs belong together. There are so many fun activities for kids   and dogs, like going for a walk or hike, playing fetch, running agility courses and just hanging out. I’ve seen some awesome Junior Handlers in the Obedience, Rally and Agility rings. My own dogs get super excited when my grandchildren come over. The older kids love to help with dog chores. Jackson, who is 6 years old, loves to let the dogs go outside. He tells them to sit and wait at the door, and sends them out politely. Julie, who is only 3 years old, is very proud that she can say, “Brutus, sit,” and using the hand signal, the 6-month-old puppy responds. They are going to have big fun with Grammy’s dogs, and maybe they will have a dog of their own some day.

 

*Colleen Pelar’s Living With Kids and Dogs.com

No Responses to “Kids and Canines”

Leave a Reply

To comment please verify you are human: *