Setting Kids & Dogs Up for Success
Whether or not you have children of your own, nieces or nephews, or kids of friends that are in your life, it is important to know how to best support your dog while around children. A wonderful relationship between kids and dogs can be facilitated by knowing what your dog is saying when interacting with kids, while teaching kids how to respectfully and safely interact with your dog.
I don’t yet have children of my own, but I made sure to introduce my dogs to children at a young age simply because kids are everywhere. It’s a wonderful thing to see Tricky, my terrier mix, just light up at the sound of children laughing–her whole body wiggles as she orients to that sound. Ellie, our one-year old Pit Bull, would drag me over to every kid she could to smother them with kisses if I let her. At the same time, I don’t take their liking of children for granted. I make sure the kids greet them appropriately and listen to her communication. I want to do everything possible to make sure that my dogs keep on liking children. In addition, I make certain the kids are learning from the experience by explaining what their body language is saying, so the kids can use this knowledge to help them when they meet other dogs. I also don't force my dogs to say hello if they don't want to for any reason in that moment.
There are so many dogs, especially small breeds and sized-dogs that develop handling issues and sometimes fear of children, simply because kids do not understand how to respectfully interact with them. Many of the calls I receive as a behavior consultant are to help the family dog learn to like the kids in the family again. Sometimes I’ve had to work with rescue dogs that have to learn hands are safe. From the dog’s perspective, hands reaching to them are scary.
And I like to start young. The first thing I do with my puppy clients with kids is teach them to respect their new puppies are beings with their own thoughts and feelings and not to treat them like a stuffed toy, picking them up whenever they feel like. I teach them about asking the pup for permission to see if he wants to be picked up. We also talk about private time where the pup can be left alone to chew or play without constantly being bothered. I often give examples of what it's like to live with a sibling and respecting one another's things and space. The kids usually get it then!
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