We all get dogs with the intention of melding them into our family unity. However, if you have children you need to plan how to best manage the addition of a new canine member. Do not just assume that the dog will automatically understand where he is in the pecking order, or that he isn’t to play bite and jump on the kids.
If things become a bit out of control, do not jump to the conclusion that it is all the dog’s fault. Parents need to first teach their children how to behave towards their dog and follow through by monitoring the interactions. We have been teaching the “little people” in our life how to approach the many dogs they may encounter when the come to Grandma and Papa’s house. This is Tucker, he gets some free time to play in his bedroom with a gate across the doorway. This allows him to interact with the kids with enough of his own space (and the kids appreciate the space they have, too!). He offers his toy over the gate to the boy and wiggles his tail happily if he gets a little attention.
We’ve developed some basic guidelines for our little people when it comes to interacting with dogs. First and foremost it is crucial to explain to children that they should not rush up to any dog, especially one they don’t know. We tell them honestly that all dogs are not friendly and that they need to ask an adult first before saying hello. We don’t frighten them that the dog may bite, we simply tell them that a particular dog “doesn’t know about kids”. If the dog is “kid friendly”, then we coach them on how to stand still or walk up slowly with hand held low rather than over the dog’s head.
The child must understand that dogs need a bit of their own space, even the family dog with which they may know well. We would also advise that they don’t hug or lay on their pet as most dogs don’t feel at ease with the physical restraint that a child’s grip can provide. Children also should be instructed not to startle or touch a dog from behind, especially when the dog is resting. As well they should not attempt to take food or a toy away from the dog.
Dogs react to stimulus, so if the kids are getting rowdy it might be a good time to remove the dog so as to prevent further chaos. Older children can be taught to help out by perhaps putting the dog outside or in his crate until the atmosphere settles down a bit.
The adults in the home are responsible for supervision the interplay between the kids and the family dog. At no time should youngsters be left unattended with the dog, particularly if he is one of the many breeds which could become easily annoyed or overly excited with normal child behavior. Never slip into denial that your dog would would never harm your child. Injury can take place if the dog does no more than sweep the child off his feet in a moment of excitement. Every year many preventable “accidents” take place involving family dogs and children. Be a smart parent and dog owner through self-education pertaining to the project you have undertaken and by teaching both child and dog to interact safely.