Ask any adult who’s totally devoted to their dogs and they’ll all have one thing in common – a love and respect for animals from early in life. When taught to value and respect dogs early on, kids not only learn how amazing a furry best friend can be, but they learn important lessons in being safe around all dogs.
All parents, even those without dogs, have a responsibility to teach their children how to treat man’s best friend, not only for the well-being of the animals they may interact with, but for their own safety as well.
Use these guidelines to “train” your kids to eventually become exceptional dog owners themselves:
Rules for Kids:
1. Never reach for a dog’s face or over their head. Many kids are taught to approach a dog with an outstretched hand to allow him to sniff before touching, unfortunately, many bite injuries happen exactly for this reason. Instead, allow a dog to come to you and indicate that they’d like to be petted. Then, pet a dog on his side or chest until he offers his head or face for pets.
2. Understand the difference between friendly, welcoming body language and fearful or aggressive body language. Contrary to popular belief, a wagging tail does NOT always indicate the dog is happy and wants attention.
3. Don’t run toward, away from, or around unknown dogs. While your own furry family may enjoy a game of chase around the backyard, not all dogs will welcome this style of play. Chasing other animal (including humans) is a natural response in many dogs and a running toddler can easily be knocked down.
4. Don’t ever bother a dog while he’s eating or enjoying a chew toy or treat. Even the sweetest dogs can become possessive over food or favorite toys and treats and can nip to protect them from being taken.
5. Don’t wake a dog when he’s sleeping with anything other than a soft, gentle voice. Sleeping dogs can be easily startled and may nip if frightened.
6. Always be gentle with dogs. Never tug on tails, pull on ears, or squish adorable puppy faces. Instead, gently stroke a dog while speaking softly to them.
Rules for Parents:
1. Always introduce kids and dogs slowly and with caution. In the home, keep dogs and kids safely separated with baby gates, crates, or barriers until they have both become comfortable with one another.
2. Never leave kids and dogs together unattended until both have become comfortable with one another, and you’re absolutely certain your child will follow the rules of thumb for interacting with the dog. Babies, toddlers, and very young children should always be supervised with a dog.
3. As a parent, you have a responsibility to train your kids to treat dogs appropriately. And, as a pet owner, you also have a responsibility to train your dog to behave appropriately around kids.
Developing a Bond:
Teaching kids to treat dogs, and all animals for that matter, with respect is absolutely vital to their safety and the safety of the dogs they encounter. But, in training your kids to become exceptional dog owners one day, they’ll need to understand the incredible relationship people can share with dogs. In other words, they should also learn to love them.
One great way for kids to develop a love for dogs is to help them develop a bond. Here are four such ways to encourage a healthy, loving relationship by helping your kids develop a bond with dogs:
1. Go for walks together! For many dogs, going for their walk is the highlight of their day. What’s more, it’s the perfect time to bond! To help your child feel included, attach two leashes to your dog’s collar or harness, and let your child carry one of them. She’ll feel like she’s helping in an important task, but won’t be at risk of being knocked over or dragged if pup pulls too hard.
2. Play fetch together! A fun game of fetch can be tailored to both your child and your dog’s age and abilities. Indoors, use a soft, lightweight toy or Nerf ball, outdoors use a tennis ball or fetch toy. Just remember, when your dog returns with the toy, teach him the “drop it” command instead of allowing your child to reach toward his mouth for it.
3. Read books to the dog! When your dog is calm or sleepy, a perfect way to relax and bond is to have your young reader tell him a story! Dogs are excellent, non-judgemental listeners for budding readers and the two of them will bond over the quality time together.
4. Play hide and seek! Another great way for kids and dogs to bond is to play hide and seek! Have your child hide tasty treats around the house or yard and then watch as the dog goes and finds them. This game is more than just about fun, too. It allows your child to witness your dog’s intelligence, further reinforcing that he’s so much more than just a cute, fluffy animal, but a family member that’s worthy of love and respect.
Do you have any additional tips to add? Fun ways that your own children have found to bond with their dogs? Please, share them in a comment below!