Kids and dogs can be a great combination, or a recipe for disaster. Teaching kids how to train, care for and respect dogs can help them with some very valuable life lessons about responsibility, appreciation, maturity, and affection for animals. Even very small children can learn how to behave around dogs. This, in turn, teaches the dog that these little people are good and not something to be afraid of or snap at.
It is important for children to understand that dogs (and other animals) are living, breathing creatures which need to be cared for and respected, they are not just another stuffed toy which can be neglected or replaced when they become bored with it. Taking your children with you to puppy training classes can be a great idea, although not all schools allow for children to be present. If you can’t take the child with you then go through what you’ve learned at home, teach them the things you learned in class, and let them help to train the dog with you when they can, this is a great exercise for both the child and the dog.
Remember positive reinforcement. This training technique which we advocate so strongly for dogs will also work on children (now where have you heard that before)? Reward good behavior on both sides with some sort of treat and you’ll be on to a real winner.
It is important that children learn to be gentle and calm around the dog at all times, especially at play time. Although play time is necessary and can be great fun for all concerned, it is very important that things are not allowed to get out of hand. Running, screaming children can cause a dog to get over-excited which can result in the dog becoming too rough and even nipping.
To put it in a nutshell:
- Do make sure that you supervise young children and your dog at all times.
- If the children do get a little rough with the dog make sure that you reward his good behavior and tolerance.
- Teach children to be peaceful and calm around dogs.
- Don’t allow your child to discipline the dog – the last thing you want is for Buddy to harbor bad feelings against the children.
- Do encourage your children to help with dog training, walks, etc.
Remember that kids and dogs do mix but never let your children talk you into getting a dog if you are not 100% behind the idea yourself. Despite older children’s promises, remember:
- No – they won’t walk it every day, especially when it is raining.
- No – they won’t be responsible for feeding it every day.
- No – they won’t clean up the mess from the back yard.
Dogs are a lifelong commitment and can bring much happiness to the whole family, but before bringing a dog into the house make sure that you are all up to the challenge and prepared with the commitment necessary for the next 15 years or so.
Photo: Courtesy of mekirilloff via Flickr (CC by 2.0)