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Almost weekly you hear in the news about a tragedy that occurred between a dog and a child. Many of these incidents don’t make the news, but the same result for the dog who snapped or bit the child happens; either being given up or put down. This would be much less frequent if parents were more proactive about the dog-child relationship in their home and stressed to their children what appropriate behavior around dogs is all about.
To build this foundation of communication and understanding between them and the pet requires two steps. For dogs this is accomplished through command training, i.e. obedience. For children, think the acronym SAFE.
Supervise your child around the dog
Anticipate problems before they happen
Follow through (if you tell your child to stop bothering the dog, enforce that or if you tell your dog to sit, make him).
In addition, parents should Educate their children by word and example that animals are to be treated with care. Added benefit…parents become better caregivers if they raise a dog correctly.
Training a dog is a lot like raising a child. It requires patience, consistency and persistence.
- Children younger than 4 or 5 years old must be supervised. They do not have the mental understanding or physical ability to be consistently gentle and must be supervised and educated on how to handle their dog.
- Parents should teach their children how to approach and pet an animal. One way is through a Dog Bite Safety class.
- Parents should teach their children animal etiquette. This means not tease or annoy an animal or startle them while they are sleeping.
- Parents should never entrust a dog’s well-being to a youngster. Adult supervision of feeding, grooming, play and exercise is essential. It helps to make your dog everyone’s responsibility. One way is to write down the pet related chores and divide them among the family. As the kids mature, they can take on more of the burden. Most children should not walk a dog unattended. As a general guideline, if the dog is heavier than 1/5 of the child’s weight, it’s too big for them to walk. Rather have the children play games with the dog while the parent is supervising. (Bad games to play with a dog include Tug of War, wrestling or chasing the dog. Good games include fetch, hide and seek and find it.) Even small children can assist with getting the food and water bowls, washing them out, filling them and giving them to the pet. A good canine habit to develop is to make sure the dog is under control. Having the dog sit until the food bowl is down, then have the child release the dog with an OK or other verbal command release. Most children can assist with picking up dog toys. Dogs stay more interested in their toys if you leave 3 or 4 down at a time and put the rest away. Dogs can be trained to leave children’s toys alone by scenting the dog toys and teaching them the children’s toys are off limits.
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