Dogs and children can be a great combination if your dog has learned how to behave around kids. Some dogs love children and seem to naturally know how to act around them. These dogs still need training and socialization. It's important that they know their boundaries.
Not all dogs will get along with kids. In fact, some dogs are even afraid of children. Many of these dogs can be trained to behave around kids at a safe distance, but some will never be able to safely interact with them.
If you have children living in or visiting your home, it's vital to ensure they are always safe around your dog.
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Socialize Your Puppy
Puppies go through a critical period of development between the ages of about 8 and 16 weeks. They are more likely to learn to accept and be comfortable with a variety of people and situations if they are introduced to them during this time. If you have a new puppy, introduce it to children in a positive way. Make sure it meets different children of various ages in a variety of situations. The children should be well-behaved around dogs and gentle. If your dog has good experiences with kids, it will associate them with good feelings.
If you have an adult dog, you can still socialize it around kids. The process should go more slowly and gently. Make sure to offer plenty of valuable treats and praise. Remove your dog from the situation at the first sign of stress.
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Start an Obedience Program
Having a well-behaved dog is the first step in ensuring the safety of children in your home. Teach your dog basic commands, such as sit and down, and you will be able to teach it how to behave around kids. For example, if its first impulse is to jump up to kiss visitors, teaching it to lie down instead will allow you to direct it to more appropriate behavior.
You may wish to take your dog to training classes to get assistance from professional trainers. Dog training classes are more affordable than one-on-one professional training and allow your dog to learn to behave around other dogs.
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Practice Handling Exercises
Even the most well-behaved child sometimes can't keep itself from throwing their arms around a dog's neck or tugging on a dog's tail. Prepare your dog for this kind of attention before it runs into a child. Give it lots of praise and maybe even a few treats while you gently pull its tail, hold its paws, hug it, and check out its ears. If your dog exhibits fear or anxiety at this gentle prodding, then it may be best to keep the kids at a distance.
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Don't Allow Your Dog to Jump Up
You may not mind your dog jumping up on you to say hello, but not every visitor to your home will feel the same way. It can be especially dangerous when your visitor is a young child who can be injured if your dog knocks them over.
Your best bet is not to allow your dog to jump up at all. If your dog jumps up when you walk through the door, you can ask it to sit instead. If this doesn't work, try walking right back out the door when it jumps. Give your dog lots of attention and praise for keeping all four paws on the floor when you walk through the door. The dog will soon learn that it's far more rewarding not to jump up on people.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Introduce Dogs to Children's Toys
Think about all the things children's toys can do. Dolls and stuffed animals often make funny, high-pitched noises. Bikes go whizzing by at a quick pace. Balls get tossed or kicked across the yard. All of these things can make it very tempting for your dog to steal, chew, or chase toys. While this can lead to toys being destroyed, it can also lead to children getting nipped or knocked over.
Sensitive dogs may be afraid of some children's toys and then start to associate that fear with children as well.
Introduce your dog to kids' toys without the kids around. This is when commands such as leave it and stay come in handy. Use these commands to keep your dog from stealing or chasing after toys. Be sure to redirect your dog to appropriate dog toys. If your dog is the nervous type, reward with treats when your dog is around the toys.
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Act Like a Kid
Let's face it; kids behave differently than adults. They run and yell and move erratically. Try to introduce your dog to some of these behaviors yourself. Teach your dog to stay, and slowly work up to having it stay in one spot while you run around your yard or yell in a high-pitched, child-like voice.
You can also get your dog used to the way children behave by taking him to a park or playground. Keep your distance at first, and slowly work your way closer to the playing children. If your dog seems concerned at any point, take a few steps back and start over. Keep things fun, and use lots of praise and treats.
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Crate Train Your Dog
Dogs often do better around children if they have an escape route. Crate train your dog so that it is happy and comfortable in a crate. Make it clear to any children in your home that the crate is off-limits to them. This way your dog can interact with the children when it wants to, but it also has a safe place to take a break.
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Don't Force a Dog to Accept Children
Some people think that holding a dog so a child can pet it is a good way to introduce dogs and kids. Not true! If a dog is afraid of children, holding it while a child approaches and pets it can be a terrifying experience. A dog who is afraid can become aggressive and growl, snap or bite in an effort to escape from the object of its fears—in this case, children. Instead allow your dog as much time as it needs to get comfortable around kids, and give it the chance to approach its own terms.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Keep It Positive
The best way to build a good relationship between your dog and children is to use positive reinforcement. When your dog is behaving well around children, be sure to give it lots of praise, treats, and attention. Your dog will learn that good things happen whenever kids are around. Soon it'll be happily seeking out children and keeping on its best behavior.
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Give Children Rules
Dogs are not the only ones who need training. Children also need to be given rules about how to behave around your dog. Be sure any child who enters your home knows the following:
- The dog should be pet gently.
- Attention should not be forced on the dog.
- The dog's crate is off-limits.
- Don't approach the dog while it is eating or chewing a bone.
- Leave the dog alone while it is sleeping.
- Make sure an adult is around when the dog is in the room. Children should never, ever be left unattended with a dog.