The three things your kids can learn!
1. Dogs Don’t Like Hugs and Kisses – Hugs and Kisses are only for Mom and Daddy. Hugging the family dog and face-to-face contacts are common causes of bites to the face, because the dog takes these too close “eyes and mouth” contacts as a challenge. Normally the dog does not feel comfortable during these close interactions and he starts to produce signs like “lick in the airs” or “painting” anxiously. It is important to teach kids what dogs really like, example, to be scratched on the chest or the side of the neck.
2. Be a “Pole” if a Strange Dog Approaches – Teach kids to stand still, like a pole. Poles are boring and the dog will eventually go away. This works for strange dogs that are “naughty” toward the kid and anytime the family dog gets too frisky or becomes aggressive.
3. Never Tease a Dog – and never disturb a dog that’s sleeping, eating or protecting something. It is important that kids can learn the body language of the dog, so that they can respect the “feelings” of the animal.
The two things parents should do!
1. Supervise – Parents assume that kids and dogs can get very well together: that is true, but THEY HAVE TO LEARN TO DO SO! They belong to two different species and for this reason they NEED TO LEARN how to communicate to each other. If a toddler or a child in general interacts with the dog, parents should have their hands on the dog too. Do not give to your dog the curse of “The Good Dog”: my dog is so good because even though my child sits on him, the dog does not react…..and so on. Your dog can maybe stand long time to improper behaviours of your child, looking at you for help, but one day, it will happen that your “Good Dog” bites your child. This is not the dog’s fault, but the mistake of the parents to not teach the child how to recognize and respect the “signals” the dog has sent to him. Unsupervised children-dog interaction can be explosive, why to take a chance?
2. Train the dog – Take your dog to puppy or obedience classes where positive-reinforcement is used. Training is very important, not only because you can “control the dog, but because you can educate the dog. An educated dog is an individual who can easily find his place inside the family. Moreover, training classes help you to develop a healthy bond with the dog and to teach you how to be a good leader of your four paws friend. It is important to involve children in the training program, because the learn how to properly behave with the animal and to respect his space.
The three things dog owners should do!
1. Condition your dog for the daily life – Your puppy needs lots of new positive experiences in order to learn how to move in his daily world. Go with your puppy to puppy classes in order he can get a lot of positive interaction and you learn what the social needs of your puppy are.
2. Supervise your dog – Supervise your dog at all times around children. Children do not know naturally how to behave with the dog, and the dog does not know either how to be around children. So, an unsupervised dog-children interaction can be explosive. If visiting children are bothering your dog, explain them how to properly behave or play with him. If they persist, bring your dog in a clam room with his favorite toy, away from the children.
Dr. Sara Platto is an Italian Veterinarian and holds a PhD in Psychobiology, www.saraplatto.com.