Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Dogs and Children                 

Exercises for dog owners and parents to keeps greeting safe and fun for everyone.

Children and dogs go together as naturally as peanut butter and jelly.  But a great peanut butter and jelly sandwich, like a great child-dog friendship, takes a little preparation. New friendships between children and dogs are more likely when both parties are having a good day, and have learned good manners and respectful greeting behaviors.  I hope these words help you prepare your dogs, and your children, for great times together.

To Parents

Parents have the ultimate responsibility for their child’s safety.

Here are some rules to follow that can help your child have safe and happy dog experiences:

a.       Ask the dog owner if the dog has experience with children your child’s age before allowing a greeting

b.      Hold your young child’s hand. If the child is likely to squeal, run, pull the dog or hit you must be ready to intercede before the child acts.

c.       If either the dog or the child seems hesitant stop the greeting in a happy, cheerful way.

d.      Always supervise interactions between your child and any dog, even your own.

Children who have good dog greeting skills don’t happen by accident.  As a parent it is important to teach your child appropriate dog greeting skills that will stay with them their whole lives.  

Rehearse the following with your child on well known, friendly dogs before (cautiously) venturing into the world of greeting strange dogs.

1.  Children should always ask permission of the dog’s owner before approaching a dog, even a dog they know.  No matter what the owner says, parents have to also assess the situation.  If you are unsure the situation is safe don’t feel badly about walking on.

2.  Children should stop several feet from the dog and let the dog approach the last few steps.  If the dog does not seek contact the child must accept that the dog wants to ‘say hello’ from a distance.

3.  Children need to learn not to grab dogs by the collar, reach over their heads or try to hug them.  Petting should be gentle, and soft.  Avoid the eyes and ears, some dogs are sensitive in these areas.

4.  Children should not approach a dog while either the dog or the child is in possession of food.

5. Children should never take anything from a dog, food, toy, or stolen object.  Children should never sit on any dog or yank on a dog.  If the dog has taken a child’s possession the child needs to inform an adult not remedy the situation themselves.

5. Children should stay calm and speak softly.  Do not squeal and run. 

6. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie is a more than a proverb; it is a great rule for greeting dogs.  Make sure the dog is awake, alert and aware of your approach before your child touches them.

Dog owner responsibility when greeting children

As the dog’s owner you have twofold responsibility.  The parents will be taking your word that your dog is reliable with children.  But, you are also the guardian of your dog.  If things go badly it is always the dog who is blamed, no matter how inappropriate the child may have been.  Be very clear with the child’s parents about your rules for greeting your dog and if it seems that the rules will not be followed politely decline their advances and walk on.

The following guidelines will help keep everyone safe and happy.

1.       Don’t Test or Practice on other people’s children.  If you are not sure your dog is going to be friendly and respectful just politely decline the greeting.   If you have treats the child can stand at a distance and gently toss them toward your leashed dog.  This is a great first step in teaching your dog to appreciate children.

2.       Be aware of how your dog is feeling every day.  Are they hot, tired, or stressed by the surroundings?  Are they on a new medication or not feeling well?  Have they had a recent scare?  All of these can make a normally happy dog cranky or distrustful.  If your dog is having a bad day, think twice before they greet children.

3.       Be aware that small children can be knocked over.  If you have a large dog, teach them to SIT or DOWN when children approach or have the children in a place where they cannot be toppled.  A park bench is a great place for a child to sit when petting a large, friendly dog.

4.       For a dog babies are different from toddlers.  Grade school children are different from teen agers.  Just because your dog likes your 13 year old daughter and her friends it does not mean they will like a 4 year old.  A dog who likes a 4 year old may be terrified by a 15 year old boy.

5.       Be aware of stress signs and watch for them when your dog encounters children.
Stress signs include, but are not limited to:

 Yawning - as if suddenly tired
 Hackles Raised- This involuntary response means your dog is upset
  Scratching while looking away
   Lip licking like they just ate or smelled food
    Eyes averted from the child or you can see the white of the eye
    Head and/or ears lowered
   Attempting to stand behind you
   Excessive drooling, sudden stiffening, hard stare, or low growl * (Don’t scold, punish or insist the dog greet. Remove the dog immediately and ask a professional for help)

 If you see any of the above halt the greeting for that day.  If it is important that your dog likes
children please consult a professional for a safe and slow desensitization program.

6.       Don’t use a retractable (flexi) leash around children.  They can catch children around the legs, torso, or even neck and cause rope burns and nore serious injury.

*Never punish or scold a growl.  The dog was uncomfortable and chose to give a verbal warning rather than bite.  This is a good thing.  Remove the dog from the situation immediately, stop and think about why your dog was uncomfortable and consider asking a professional for help.

We hope this little pamphlet keeps you safe and happy and sets everyone up for a lifetime of great dog-human friendships.

Train This Dog offers Group Classes and Private Training for the Family Pet
Day training for older dogs and Puppy Not-a-boot-camp is also available for busy owners

Behavioral clients for issues such as fear, aggression, separation anxiety, food and object guarding accepted on a case by case basis.  Please enquire.

Train This Dog                      Savannah Georgia                    
Phone: 677-2861  
Claudia Black-Kalinsky, CPDT-Ka

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