Bringing up children and pets together can be difficult. We’ve put together a few simple tips to help make raising any animal a fulfilling and enjoying process for the entire family! Discussing these rules with your child will help ensure a happy and safe future relationship for both you and the family pet.
It’s important that your children know how to behave with your pet. Keep the whole family safe and happy with our tips:
Socialize, socialize, socialize!
Socialization. Not only is this one of the single most important tips with pets around children you’ll ever hear about, properly socializing your dog will probably be one of the very most important behavioral training techniques you’ll ever hear about.
Good social skills set the horror stories you’ve heard about aggressive dogs biting children or attacking other animals from the happy, carefree family pets that play a huge part in our lives growing up. Though that may be an extreme, a properly socialized dog is a happy dog, one who doesn’t fear everything and everyone as a potential threat.
The Unsocialized Dog
Unfortunately, many ‘old school’ pet owners still don’t want to desensitize their dogs with children. They try their best to keep their dogs away from kids at all times, for whatever reason. Ultimately, this can lead to the dog reacting with suspicion, possibly either defensively or aggressively, when that child innocently tries to pet him. The dog has never encountered this new creature before, and naturally considers it a potential threat.
- Be sure to teach your child not to approach or try to pet dogs that they don’t know.
- Hugging could bear a different meaning to dogs unused to physical affection, instead displaying an unwanted form of dominance.
- Make sure to explain to your child the importance of never getting his face near a dog’s.
How to Socialize Your Dog With Children
It’s best to start this as early as possible during puppyhood (within reason), around 3 months, during the crucial period while the puppy's brain and initial social skills are still developing. Being sure to supervise, introduce your puppy to household or neighborhood children. Make sure the interactions are happy ones, allowing the child to play with the new puppy. Give the child a treat to offer the puppy. Praise the puppy for happy interactions. Play games with them.
- Puppies are often much easier to socialize than adult dogs.
- Socialize your pet with everyone: neighbors, strangers in the park, other animals, family - not just children.
Bite Inhibition Training (Soft Mouth)
‘Bite Inhibition’ refers to a dog’s ability to control his bite pressure, and is another one of the great tips with pets around children. As long as they aren’t separated from littermates too early before they can properly build these skills, most dogs build this control when playing. It’s simple: one pup clamps down on another a bit too hard during play, the victim immediately yelps away in pain, so play stops. This is the last thing the ‘biter’ wants, so he learns not to bite so hard next time.
You can apply the exact same principle during training! Say you’re playing ‘Tug of War’, or some other game, and your dog’s teeth accidentally hit your hand. It doesn’t matter if this actually hurts or not. Simply feign pain, pretending you’re actually injured. Make a loud, yelping ‘ouch’. Stop playing the game, and back off. You don’t need any other correction but this. Remember, the idea isn’t to frighten your dog, but just to make him think his bite hurt.
Your bite inhibition training strategy will have the same psychological effect on your dog as it will for puppies in a litter. The last thing your pet wants is for the play to stop, and he doesn’t actually intend to hurt you, so he’ll learn to bite much softer or avoid your hands altogether.
- A human’s skin is much softer than a dog’s hide. You don’t want your pet applying the same degree of bite pressure to your child as the other family pet during play.
- Try to build this skill while the dog is small and young, before he grows to a size where he can actually cause damage.
Small Toys and Choking Hazards
Any parent knows their children can be forgetful, or neglectful, when it comes to toys. Whether it be pieces of Lego or something else, kids often leave their toys lying around the house. All too often the adult then has to either remind their kids to pick up, or do it themselves.
Where as a 6 year old child might know enough not to put these tiny toys in their mouths, the same can’t be said for young puppies. Anyone who has raised even one young pup knows how they like to put absolutely everything in their mouths, just like a human toddler. Whether it be lego, pens, marbles, or electrical cords - it’s all fair game to them.
This can create a huge choking hazard, if nothing else. Just like tiny humans, puppies require constant supervision so they don’t harm themselves. If you can’t supervise your puppy, make sure to crate him.
Young (or many older) children aren’t mature enough to properly supervise or completely care for a dog at any age, let alone a puppy. Many adults bring new dogs into the family as a way of teaching their children responsibility, only to re-shelter those dogs later.
Puppies and Small Dogs are Delicate
Any parent also knows young children often want to touch, even pick up, everything. When it comes to developing puppies or small breed dogs, this can become a problem. These animals are delicate, their bone’s smaller, and often easily injured. Not only do you have injury to the dog to worry about, you’ve got to consider any possible retaliation from the family pet towards the child for hurting it.
Experts advise against raising many smaller breeds around children, like Chihuahuas or Italian Greyhounds.Follow these simple tips with pets around children, and be sure to talk with your child about raising your pets. Making sure you both reach a solid understanding will go leagues to promote healthy future encounters for children and the family pets alike.