Teaching Your Dogs and Kids to Get Along

Want your dog and kids to coexist peacefully? Here’s what you need to do.

By | Posted: September 2, 2014, 8 a.m. PST

Dogs and children: They go together like peanut butter and jelly ... well, most of the time. When dogs and kids interact with each other under ideal circumstances, there’s opportunities for bonding, playing, learning and loving. But most dogs and kids don’t automatically know how to get along, so it’s up to the responsible dog owner to help ensure smooth sailing.

 

Dog and Kid 

Christian Collins/Flickr


What You Can Do as a Responsible Dog Owner

1. Supervise, supervise, supervise! The most important thing you can do to ensure harmony between children and dogs is to supervise their interactions. A responsible adult can help make sure playtime doesn’t get out of hand (which can happen very quickly with kids and pets), or that someone (human or canine) doesn’t get hurt.

 

2. Spay or neuter your dog. Not only does spaying or neutering prevent unwanted dogs from ending up homeless, in animal shelters or euthanized, it might also improve your dog’s behavior. According to the American Humane Association, when a dog is spayed or neutered, it puts a stop to the distracting, instinctual need to find a mate, helps your pet stop roaming, and decreases aggressive tendencies.


What to Teach Your Children

1. Most dogs don’t like to hug and kiss. Children are naturally drawn to love on dogs the way they do with their stuffed animals and baby dolls. But most dogs find this kind of unwanted behavior intimidating, and it can result in a warning growl -- or worse -- a bite. Also, teach kids not to put their face up to any dog, and to not stare into a dog’s eyes.

Dog and Kid

2. Do not disturb. If a dog is eating, sleeping, chewing on a toy or is a mama dog caring for her puppies, kids need to know that the dog is off limits at this time.

 

Dog eating

Benny Lin/Flickr

 

3. Read doggie body language. How can a child know when a dog wants to interact, and when he doesn’t? Look at the body language. According to the Humane Society of the United States, the following signals mean that the dog is uncomfortable and might feel the need to bite: tense body, stiff tail, pulled back head and/or ears, furrowed brow, eyes rolled so the whites are visible, yawning, flicking tongue, intense stare, backing away. Teach kids to stay away from dogs who show these signals.


Does a Wagging Tail Mean a Friendly Dog?>>

 

4. Please don’t tease. Just as people don’t like to be teased, neither do dogs! Avoid playing games that might be misconstrued as teasing, such as "bite my finger” with puppies, or tug-of-war, because they encourage aggressive behavior and can quickly get out of hand.

Dog chewing

 


What to Teach Your Dog

1. Children are our friends. Give your dog lots of opportunities to interact with friendly, well-behaved children on a regular basis. If your dog doesn’t already live in a household with children, then parks, dog-friendly community events and walks around the neighborhood will give you lots of possibilities to introduce your dog to nice kids.

 

Dog chewing

Tony Alter/Flickr

 

2. Get some class. Obedience class, that is. Attending an obedience class will help you and your dog learn basic cues -- such as sit, stay, lie down and come -- which you can use when your dog and children are together. In fact, you can make it a family affair by inviting your children to learn the cues with you. Get everyone in on the obedience action!

3. Good behavior is rewarding. When you catch your dog acting calm when kids are around, reward him with a treat, or a pat on the head if your dog isn’t food motivated. You want your dog to remember this equation whenever children are around: kids + calm dog = yummy treat/nice things happen.

4. There’s always an escape route. For some dogs (especially older dogs), being around kids and their shrieking, screaming, squealing and running is exhausting after a while. Make sure your dog has a place of his own to retreat to when he wants to, whether it’s his bed off in a quieter part of the house, or a comfy crate with a toy or two inside. Let everyone know that when your dog is in his "quiet place,” that means to leave him alone.


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