I’ve spent my entire life without human pups under my roof, but there is always the occasional child that will try to invade my personal space—which is why I’ve been taught to enjoy the company of children. And I had to be taught because, to be honest, I think kids are a little scary sometimes.
Mind you, it’s totally normal for dogs to fear children, especially if they have not been raised around them (or if they’ve been teased by them in the past). Even one bad experience can cause lifelong trauma. It’s not easy to erase those bad memories. With that in mind, I fetched some tips for preparing your pup to be kid-friendly.
First, having a well-behaved dog is essential to ensuring positive interactions. Teach your dog basic commands, such as “sit” and “down,” and you will be able to teach them how to behave around kids. You can also get your dog accustomed to the way children behave by taking them to a park or playground. Keep your distance at first, and slowly work your way closer to the action. If your dog seems concerned at any point, take a few steps back and start over.
It goes without saying: Never leave a child and dog alone and unattended. Always maintain supervision and, yes, step in if you feel the dog is uncomfortable or the child is at risk. Get to know your dog’s personal body language so that you are aware when they’ve had enough kiddie time for one day. Dogs rarely ever bite without warning, so it is important that you understand their subtle clues. Tucked tails, flattened ears and lowered eyes are signs that your dog may be feeling overwhelmed.
Dogs are not the only ones who need training. Children also need to be given rules about how to behave around dogs. It’s critical to teach children how and when to approach and play with dogs. Even the best-bred kids sometimes can’t resist a furry face. Children are known to give unsolicited bear hugs and tail tugs. This can be stressful for a dog, even with the best intentions. They must understand that fur is for petting, not grabbing; ears are for listening, not yanking; and, of course, tails are for wagging, not pulling. Keep an eye out for pulling, pushing, pinching and other actions that can cause harm. If a child cannot be kind to a dog, the child may need to find something else to play with.
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 them lots of praise, treats and attention. Your dog will learn that good things happen whenever kids are around. Soon they’ll be happily seeking out children and keeping on their best behavior.
Dogs aren’t born knowing how to behave around youngsters, just as children don’t automatically know how to play nice with dogs. Proper training and socialization are vital to ensuring a good relationship between all pets and people.
Remember, even if you don’t have kids, you may encounter them in public spaces. Whatever the case, it’s crucial that your dog knows how to behave around children. If trained properly, then the dog-child relationship is one of the most fulfilling ones on the planet.