If you clicked on this post I’m going to assume you have children and you just brought a new fur ball into your home. (I’m going to hope you did this through adopting from a shelter or rescue!) The first thing you’re going to be a bit surprised by is that the key is raising your children to be gentle animals alongside your dogs. It doesn’t matter if you have the sweetest gentlest giant that ever existed if your children push its boundaries an animal will defend themselves in the only way they know how.
Step One: Before you bring your new puppy or adult dog home you need to set ground rules with your children.
- No poking, pulling, pinching or prodding any animals for any reason. This includes no poking eyes or putting hands in mouths.
- No sitting, laying or riding on top of animals. We all think its sweet when the baby sits on top of the dog. The dog doesn’t think its sweet.
- No screaming in animal’s faces. You would not tolerate someone screaming in your child’s face and you owe your animals the same respect.
- These are things you should teach your children about any animal in any place not just the animals in your family.
Step Two: Do not unleash your children to crowd and overwhelm animals.
- Allowing your new dog to investigate the kids while they sit calmly will make him feel much more at ease. Have your children assume a comfortable position crouching or sitting on the ground and talk sweetly to the dog.
- Have them hold their hand out loosely and let the pup sniff until they are comfortable and showing signs they would like to be pet.
- Explain to your children that it is not okay to pat the top of a dog’s head straight away.
- Most dogs are fine and just want to be loved but there are plenty of animals who need a moment to settle down and understand they are not in danger.
Step Three: Exercise and properly train your dog
- A tired dog is a happy dog.
- If you exercise your dog regularly they will absolutely be more “gentle” because they are not containing a pile of energy inside of them.
- Your dog is not going to be able to be on his best behavior if you do not train him what that best behavior is. So teach them sit, stay, lay down, leave it, drop it etc. I use “drop it” with Bagheera more than any other command because his puppy-ness is constantly stealing Presley’s toys.
- So many accidents happen with dogs knocking children over or jumping on them and scratching. You absolutely should train your dog not to jump and to be calm. But you cannot expect them to be model citizens if you are not being a model pet parent.
- Once your dog is tuckered out allow your children to spend time with their fur brother but keep an eye on them. Presley and Bagheera spend hours a day sitting on her play mat with her toys. I always make sure Bagheera is exercised before I let them hangout though. He is just as much of a baby as she is and he doesn’t understand his size or strength. If I don’t tire him out he will step on her, paw her, nibble on her and jump.
Step Four: Remember that children imitate.
- Kids, especially toddlers, imitate everything they observe.
- Use this to your advantage and treat your dog exactly how you want your child to treat him. You should be treating your dog with respect and affection anyways.
- Calm, consistent and positive interaction with your animals ensures your children will treat them the same.
- When Presley was learning how to crawl I made sure that she did not invade Copenhagen or Bagheera’s space. I have taught her since she was five months old not to grab or climb on animals and she understands. It really isn’t hard to communicate with an infant when you are consistent.
- The same goes for animals: consistency is key.
Familypaws.com is a great resource for expert help on families with dogs.
- Consider crating your dog. Crates are not harsh or mean punishment. Most dogs see their crate as a safe place and will go take a nap when they are overwhelmed. Bagheera has a crate (mostly because he destroys anything in his path if he is left unattended) and he goes and naps in there when Presley is being particularly annoying. Cope likes to go under the kitchen table and snooze when he doesn’t want to be bothered. Presley is never allowed to go into their crates or to bug the dogs when they are sleeping. Sometimes this is hard because since Bagheera was a baby he likes to sleep right next to Presley but she knows that even though he is there he is not a toy. She is only 12 months old but she understands this because I have been consistent.
- If the dogs are lounging on their beds she likes to sit on there with them. Many days she sits on Bagheera’s bed while he chews a bone and she plays with a toy. But she is not allowed to bug them when they want their space. If she is in her playpen they sleep right up against it or Bagheera has been known to hang his head over the top and watch her.
- Always watch your dog’s body language. It is the only way they have to communicate with you.