Disclosure :: This post is sponsored by Lafayette Veterinary Care Center.
How to Encourage Positive Interactions Between Your Dog and Children
Ask any dog owner and they’ll likely tell you the same thing: their dog is so infinitely more than “just a dog.” Our dogs are family members and of course we want nothing more than for our dog to love our children. So how do we foster a relationship of mutual love and respect between our dog and our children?
Whether your dog is 5 pounds or 105 pounds, it’s imperative that any dog and child interaction is supervised by an adult. It is never safe to assume that your dog will automatically know how to behave around a child, even if she is perfect around you.
It’s so important to create a “safe zone” for your dog, a place where she can go to feel comfortable, independent, and be away from any children. A crate is an ideal environment, and although there are some older dogs who aren’t used to crates, it’s never too late to crate train them as long as positive reinforcement is used.
While older children may be more receptive to staying away from an area that is dog-only, toddlers may not be so quick to pick up on this boundary. Make sure you’re constantly stressing the importance of allowing your dog to have alone time and re-direct a toddler to a different activity if your dog is displaying signs of over-stimulation. Warning signs may include tucking a tail, flattening ears, bearing teeth, and sometimes growling. Don’t punish your dog for these actions—we absolutely want them to let us know when they’ve had enough so that they can be moved to their “safe zone” to chill out. It’s equally important to praise every positive interaction—treats, toys, and attention are great ways to show children and dogs that you’re proud.
Take It Slow
Teach children to always ask permission to pet any dog. Once they’re given the go-ahead, have them approach your dog slowly and head on, we never want to surprise a dog. Never have a child (or anyone for that matter) approach your dog if she is eating or sleeping. She may feel as though her personal space is being invaded. If you have a toddler who tends to be loud, wait until he calms down before approaching your dog. Similarly, if you dog is over-excited, have the child take a step back and wait until she calms down. Older dogs with chronic illnesses or pain will definitely want a child to make gentle movements around them so that they don’t feel threatened. Have the child hold their hand out for your dog to sniff (if your dog is small, have them stoop down to her level). Once your dog has sniffed them and appears relaxed, allow them to gently pet her chin or chest. After that, allow them to scratch and pet her back. As your dog becomes more familiar and trusting of the child, allow her to accept treats from the palm of the child’s hand. This will teach her that she gets rewarded when she behaves around children.
Consistency is Key
It’s vital that everyone in the house is on the same page when it comes to what your dog is and isn’t allowed to do. If one person is setting boundaries and another is disregarding them, your dog will ultimately be confused and will likely default to doing what she wants. Respectively, the same thing applies to children—the rules on how to behave around your dog should always remain the same and the boundaries should always be respected, no matter how familiar your dog becomes with a child.
Interactions between your dog and children can be one of the sweetest things you’ll witness. Establishing rules, rewarding good behavior, and remaining consistent will set your dog and child up for a successful friendship.
About the Author:
Becka Hughes is a mom of an almost-two-year-old daughter named Olivia, and two dogs, Maggie and Delilah. You can find her spending time outdoors, jogging, reading a book, or chasing (and barely keeping up with) Olivia. She has been a part of the Lafayette Veterinary Care Center team for a little over two years and is an avid animal lover. Becka graduated from the College of Charleston in 2013 and moved to Louisiana in 2015.
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