A loving and trusting relationship can be achieved between children and dogs, providing they understand the dogs needs, reactions and capabilities.
Socialising dogs with children
Puppies start to learn early how to be sociable towards adults, children and other pets. Between the ages of 3-12 weeks they will readily absorb what is correct behaviour, and what is not. If their contacts are pleasant,then the pup is more likely to interact in a friendly manner when future meetings occur. Children not only differ from adults in size, but also in behaviour. Just because your dog gets on well with other adults, does not mean that it will with children. It is important that young dogs be socialised, for even if your household does not include children, your dog is bound to meet them at some stage during its life. As much as people may say ‘my dog would never bite’ it would be irresponsible to assume so. All dogs have the potential to bite. The larger the dog – the greater the damage. Dogs can become unpredictable – especially around children.
Always supervise young children
It is recommended that all children under the age of 5 be supervised whenever with dogs, whether they are family pets or someone else’s. Dogs often grow up viewing the children in the house as other ‘puppies’ and will treat accordingly. You need to get the hierarchy right within the family, i.e. dog at the bottom.
Introducing dog to baby
It is difficult for the dog to understand why he/she is suddenly left outside when a new baby comes into the house. Constant supervision is imperative. It is sure to be curious and want to get close enough to smell. When the dog is relaxed around baby, give it lots of favourable praise. Any sign of over-excitement, jealousy or aggression, the dog should be reprimanded and sent away. Never leave a baby lying on the ground unattended in the company of a dog.
Including children in the dogs training
Just as it is important to train your dog how to behave towards children, its vital to train children how to behave towards a dog. Involve the children when training your dog. Teach them the basic commands to use on the dog. Sit, stay, leave, no etc. And what your dog needs to stay healthy and happy – regular food, sleep and play. Educate the children to be responsible and consistently kind and to understand your dog – when it needs to go outside, etc. Let them know that your dog requires its own space for some chill-out time too.
Here are some tips for kids:
- Never run at a dog yelling/screaming. This can frighten the dog. Always be quiet and gentle.
- Ask if you wish to pat a strange dog. Some dogs can be very shy and are not used to children.
- Pat the dog from the side on its neck, under the chin or belly. Not from the front on the head.
- Don’t tease or poke at dog with sticks, etc. Keep fingers out of ears, eyes and mouth. Never pull its tail.
- Avoid trying to take toys out of dogs mouth. Teach the dog to ‘leave’ ball on ground at your feet.
- Leave the dog alone at mealtime. Never try to take food from them once it has been given.