If you are a dog owner, and also have kids in your lives then it's a pretty safe bet that you want them to have a happy and harmonious relationship. How do you do that? First we need to establish a few things. How old is the child? How old is the dog? If the dog is not in puppyhood, have they spent any time around kids before and how did it go? Ideally a dog would have positive exposure to children of all ages starting from puppyhood. Of course this doesn't always happen for a variety of reasons. Since behavior management can not be safely achieved via a blog post, I am going to focus on building a positive relationship between children and dogs and not fixing any issues that may have arisen or addressing prey drive and other factors that may play into this.
My children have grown up around dogs, as of many of us. When my first son was born, I brought him home and my 1 year old pitty mix pup was so thrilled to finally meet the tiny human who belonged to the heartbeat she spend 9 months listening to from inside my belly. She was smitten. She would lay in front of his crib while he slept (his crib was in my room). She would wake me the instant he started to stir. She was always nearby wherever he was. They had a bond like no other for her entire life. And the day she passed, she took a piece of his heart with her. I made mistakes with them, I was young. But she was exceptional and I never felt the repercussions of those mistakes due to her calm disposition and deep love for my son. She loved all three of children immensely but the bond between her and my first was special. They grew up together. I learned along the way what things to do differently, and things she enjoyed from my children, she wanted no part of from other children. And that was ok. There is much to know about this topic and always more to learn. Today will only touch on this very important subject. Let's get started.
Children. They are amazing little humans who are full of energy and love. They haven't a clue about personal space and also can make an abundance of noises that can be overstimulating to a dog. Young children and babies should always be supervised around dogs regardless of the dogs size, age or how well behaved they are. Supervision is the key to facilitating a positive relationship and keeping everyone safe. For the sake of time, I can not give you a step by step guide but I can tell you some important things to keep in mind.
Dogs can be a child's best friend, or the thing they fear the most. Which one often depends on how the adults in their lives manage their relationship. The vast majority of dogs do not enjoy being hugged, picked up or having someone's face shoved in theirs. Dogs do not enjoy being climbed on, sat on or dressed up. It is extremely important to teach children of all ages not to bother a dog that is resting or eating. I encourage all of my clients to provide a safe space for their dog to go to where they know they will 100% not get bothered regardless of if they are sleeping or awake. Remind your children that dogs are not playground equipment and that it is not ok to lay on them, sit or climb on them. And teach the dog to escape uncomfortable situations by going to their safe space that you have provided for him. If a child wants to greet a dog, even if they live with that dog, it is important not to force themselves on the dog. Instead of invading the dogs personal space, which will eventually lead to some sort of negative reaction from the dog, call the dog into their space. This gives the dog a choice the same way you give a child a choice when someone asks for a hug. Remember, my body, my choice. It is very much the same for dogs. If the dog chooses not to go over to be pet, make sure the child respects that dogs choice, understanding that they can try again later. Teaching our dogs to respect our children, and our children to respect dogs can lead to a lifetime of positive relationships between human and canine and build priceless memories along the way. If you are struggling to build a positive relationship between your dog and children, need help repairing one, or are unsure how to prepare your dog for the arrival of a new child in their lives, please reach out to a trainer near you. Remember, not all dogs like children and not all children like dogs. And that is ok.