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Children and Dogs Part 2, February 24, 2011

Here is part two to last week’s post on living in harmony with children and dogs.

Helping Dogs Tolerate Children

Dogs must learn, through socialization and training, how to be at ease around kids and behave appropriately around them. Socialization to children is easiest and most effective during puppyhood—between 6 and 12 weeks of age—and may prevent adult dogs from being fearful or aggressive toward children. Read the Pamphlet for Pet Parents on socialization to learn more about this important phase of your puppy’s life.

Under supervision, have children handle the puppy and give the puppy treats. A good trainer can help you teach your puppy not to mouth or nip at children. Older dogs without much experience with children need to have supervised, gentle, careful interactions with them by associating good things with children. To acclimate your dog to being around children, both how close the children are to your dog and what they do, should be controlled.

First, have the kids sit quietly at a distance as you give your dog treats and pet him quietly. Have the children come gradually closer and toss treats as they walk by your dog. Eventually they can offer your dog a treat from an open palm rather than holding the treat in their fingers. Watch your dog’s reactions for signs of fear or threat. Go slowly and don’t force him to endure more than he is comfortable with. The goal is to make good things happen for your dog when kids are present. If you see any sign of fear or aggression, you may need professional help to acclimate your dog to children. Talk to your pet professional about help or a referral. You can find out more about trainers and behavior consultants in the Pamphlet for Pet Parents of the same name. Learn more about fears and aggression by reading the Pamphlets for Pet Parents on these topics. Not all dogs can live safely with children. In some cases the dog may need to be rehomed to a family without children.

What Not To Do
Never, ever leave young children and dogs together unsupervised no matter how well behaved you think both of them are. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye and either the child or the dog can be injured.
Even though children and dogs can play together fabulously, your dog is not your child’s personal play toy. You must set reasonable limits for both your children and your dog.

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