Regardless of if you have your child or dog first, having them interact can make you nervous. It doesn’t matter how much you love them, you’ll be worried that your dog won’t like your kid, or the kid will mistreat your dog. Getting a child and dog to get along isn’t always easy, but with clear rules and a little work, you can keep everybody safe.
Forming A Friendship Between Your Child And Dog
Supervise At All Times
This should be obvious, it’s extremely important to supervise interactions between your child and dog, especially with young kids. Even if your dog is the sweetest, softest most well behaved dog in all the land, they’re still animals with instincts. They can act out of character, even more so when being poked and prodded by small fingers.
According to the National Canine Research Council, the majority of child deaths as a result of a dog attack were unsupervised. That’s crazy to me! Supervision is important, especially when you’re not particularly familiar with the dog. My son has a two inch scar on his forehead from a dog, so I’m not coming at this from an uninformed angle.
Train Your Dog To Be Child-Friendly
Some dogs just aren’t suited to be around children, and are better off with adults. But other dogs just need to learn how to behave. Teaching a dog what is and isn’t acceptable around young children can help them be more child-friendly. You’ve got to set the rules as soon as you can so the dog doesn’t create bad habits.
Your dog needs clearly defined lines, and you should be the leader of the pack that sets them. Make sure that you’re consistent with praise and discipline or you’ll confuse your pet (as well as your children). If your dog is too aggressive, it could be helpful to spay or neuter them which helps make them calmer.
Train Your Child To Be Dog-Friendly
Just like your dog has to be taught, your child also needs to learn the rules. You’ve got to teach them how to treat not only your dog, but other dogs too. While your dog may be able to tolerate being tugged on, your child may not understand that not all dogs will.
It’s best to teach your child to respect your dog the way you want them to respect any dog. In return, your dog can help your children feel empathy and learn to treat not only pets, but people with respect.
Give Your Dog Space
It’s important to remember your dog needs it’s own space as well. As much as kids love to play with and smother dogs, sometimes the pet just needs some quiet time. (Don’t we all?)
Spending time is exhausting for anyone, even pets. If your dog wants to go curl up in a corner, encourage your child to recognize that he probably wants to be left alone. Give your dog an area to retreat where your child can’t follow, maybe a caged doghouse.
Your dog should also be left alone when eating, sleeping, or guarding a toy or other possession.
Think About Hygiene
Hygiene is another important part of your child and dog playing together. Teach your child to wash their hands after playing with your dog, and don’t forget to clean up your pet’s messes in the yard.
Dog feces can cause toxocariasis, caused by roundworm and other unhealthy bacteria. You’ll also want to consider other types of parasites such as fleas and ticks. You can find advice from Pet-Lock on managing fleas and ticks. This is something you’ll want to tackle as soon as possible, so they don’t end up in your home.
The following is a good video on teaching children the tips and tricks of dog grooming!
Get Your Child Involved In Care
As the video above explains, getting your child involved in pet care gives them a sense of responsibility. It helps your child and dog spend more time together too, making them view each other as family.
Young children can help with numerous things such as filling up food and water bowls, or throwing a ball in the yard. As they get older, they can take the dog for a walk or help with grooming. It helps your kid and pet get to know each other, and get used to interacting with each other in different ways.
Ensure Lots Of Exercise For Your Dog
Exercising is an important part of health, for all animals (even humans!). For dogs, it also helps keep their temperament in check. If they don’t get enough exercise, your dog can start to feel restless and hyperactive.
You need to learn the activity needs of your dog so that you are giving them adequate exercise. Some dogs need a lot, while others are happy with just one or two short walks a day. It depends on breed, age, or even just the dogs individual personality.
Thinking of Getting A New Dog?
If you’re adding a new dog to the family, choosing the right one is super important if you want it to get along with your kids. If you get a new puppy you can train them yourself, but just choosing the age doesn’t mean you’ve picked the perfect dog for your family.
If you choose a rescue dog, you already know what you’re getting into. Get a dog from a shelter, and you’ll get the info about their personality from the shelter volunteers and see if they think the dog can get along with children.