Dog / Child Interaction: How to Develop a Safe Relationship

Dog Child Interaction: How to Develop a Safe Relationship

By Nancy Settecasi
Dog child interaction is the single most important issue to deal with if you have a child and a dog. Children love dogs but dogs don’t always love children. When you bring home a new puppy, your child should be trained together with your dog. Dog owners need to remember that it takes two to tango. Children aren’t often taught how to treat a new doggy which can make his life a living hell. This is not only torment for your dog but can be dangerous to your child. Never trust your child alone with ANY dog, regardless of how gentle that dog is known to be. A child tends to know just which buttons to press to turn the gentlest animal into a dangerous beast. Most dogs initially feel threatened by a child because they are at eye level, they have high-pitched voices and make vigorous movements. The dog senses that the child is somewhat unpredictable. Dog-child interaction should be monitored in order to make sure that child and your dog are getting along.

What you should teach your child

  • Do not let your child hug the dog until the dog-child relationship has developed and they’ve become comfortable with each other.
  • Children are accustomed to showing their affection with a hug, but some dogs will tolerate it while others will not.
  • Never approach a strange dog without asking the owner if it is o.k. to do so.
  • Allow the dog to sniff you before you try to pat him.
  • Stay away from stray dogs. A stray dog may carry disease or try to attack.
  • Never scream or run away from a dog. This will only start a chase.
  • Never run towards a dog or around a dog.
  • Never approach a dog face to face. This is threatening to them. Always approach a dog from the side. This will allow the dog-child relationship to develop.
  • Never look a dog square in the eyes.
  • Never tease or hit a dog whether he’s loose, tied up, behind a fence or in a crate.
  • Never play rough games with a dog, such as tug-of-war. This will encourage a dog to become aggressive.
  • Never pat a dog on the head. Always approach him under the chin or on his back.
  • Never bother a sleeping dog.
  • Never bother the dog while he’s eating or chewing his favorite bone.
  • A dog is not a toy. Never yank on his ears or pull his tail.
  • If a dog poses a threat, teach your child to stay perfectly still with arms at the side, avoid eye contact, don’t scream. If there is no one around who can pull the dog away, have your child use a jacket, schoolbag, garbage can cover, or anything he can find as a shield while backing away from the dog slowly.
  • If a dog has knocked your child to the ground, he should curl up into a ball with his hands behind his head to protect his face.
  • Never give the dog table food.
  • Always play with your dog under adult supervision.
  • Always be kind to your dog. This will help develop a dog-child friendship.
  • Always protect your dog from harm.

What you should know as a dog owner

  • Begin obedience training your dog as soon as possible. Don’t wait til he gets older, it’ll only get harder.
  • Never leave your child alone with the dog.
  • Never let your child walk the dog alone.
  • Never tie up your dog. Provide your dog with a fenced-in space instead.
  • Socialize your dog. Get him acquainted with other dogs as early as possible. You should also get him familiar with everything in his environment, both indoors and outdoors. This is key in attempting to establish a great dog-child relationship.
  • Reward your dog for good behavior with praise and a treat.
  • If you leave your dog in the yard, make sure your fence does not have spaces large enough for a child to stick their hands through.
  • Never allow your child to abuse the dog in any way. This will never enable a dog-child relationship to flourish.
  • Give your dog a space to call his own to which he can retreat to if he is feeling bothered (such as a crate).
  • Do not allow your child to invade your dog’s space especially while your dog is eating.
  • Get your dog used to being touched on all body parts. This will make him more comfortable around children.
  • Teach your dog to maintain a good temperament in the case of having his food bowl taken away while he’s eating or removing a chew toy from his mouth. This will allow your dog to be more comfortable having a child around when he’s eating or chewing on his favorite toy.
  • Teach your child how to properly handle the dog/puppy.
  • Walk your dog on a leash. Do not allow him to roam free.
  • Keep in mind that just because your dog is wonderful around your own children doesn’t mean he will tolerate other children the same way.
  • Spay/neuter your dog.

If you have a dog and are expecting a baby

First off, if you haven’t read the information above this subhead, go up and do so now. The above information will provide you with all the do’s and dont’s in preparing your dog for an addition to the family. If your dog has never been around a child for a long period of time, you will have the next nine months to get him used to it. Dog-child interaction is crucial at this stage.

Invite a niece, nephew, cousin, neighbor, etc. over for a few hours a week (Preferably a child who still wears a diaper. This will get the dog used to baby smell as well).

This idea satisfies two objectives: it will get your dog used to having a child around; and will develop your dog’s behavior in such a way which allows him to have a dog-child relationship with almost any child. Teach your dog how to behave around a child using much of the information discussed above.

Do not wait until the baby is born in order to make adjustments. Try to make as many adjustments as you can before the baby arrives, this way he won’t be hit with all these changes at once. For instance, if you will have to move furniture around to accommodate a high chair or a playpen, this may affect the placement of your dog’s bed and bowl. If so, make this move before the baby arrives. This will lessen the impact it will have on your dog and is less likely to affect the dog-child relationship.

Once you have the nursery set up for the baby, teach your dog that he will not be allowed in the room, at all. If he learns this before the baby comes, it will lessen the dog’s resentment towards the baby.

Get your dog used to the sounds a baby makes by playing a recording of a baby cooing and crying. Play this recording in the nursery in order to indicate to your dog where exactly he can expect these sounds to be coming from.

Make accommodations for your dog for the day you go into labor. He may have to spend hours alone before daddy’s comes home from the hospital.

When it’s time to bring the baby home, have someone go into another room with the dog while you put the baby down and get settled. Then bring the baby out and introduce the dog to the baby. The dog will probably give the baby a sniff or two and seek your attention. After all, he hasn’t seen you in days. At this point, it would be a good idea to put the baby down and spend some time playing with the dog. Show him he’s still loved. This will aid in the development of the dog-child relationship.

Your dog may require some extra attention in the first days of welcoming the baby. This will keep him from resenting the baby for stealing all the attention. Give him your undivided attention.

Allow your dog to be present when changing or feeding the baby.

Never yell at your dog for getting too close to the baby. Allow him to sniff the baby in order to get used to his scent. Make sure this is done under strict supervision. This will help nourish the dog-child relationship.

As the baby gets older, you will teach him to respect the dog and be gentle towards him.

Get your child to help you with dog chores, such as feeding and walking the dog.

Before your know it, a natural dog-child bond will form which will give them a long-lasting friendship for years to come.

Help your child and your dog live in perfect harmony by adhering to these simple rules. Once a good dog-child relationship has been established, this bond will last a lifetime.

If you have trouble controlling your dog, you should bring your dog (and your child) to an obedience class to help you get started.

Nancy Settecasi, Owner of Happy K-9 Dog Care Proud owner of Cookie and Skippy, Cocker Spaniels, Dog lover

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