We’ve all seen them. Those carefree dog food commercials that feature adorable, furry puppy’s jumping on the laps of children, licking their faces and, for the most part, being on their best behavior. Unable to resist the allure of this loveable scene played out on television, many children ask their parents for a dog of their own.
Many parents submit to the requests. After all, a puppy would make a great companion, it might distract the youngster from the iPad, PlayStation, or Xbox gaming console for a while, and it just might teach him or her some responsibility. Getting the dog is the easy part. The hard part is training it to act like the dog in the commercial. And that task becomes even trickier when there are kids involved. Most kids don’t know the first thing about being with and training a dog, and many parents could use some remedial training as well.
Whenever a parent makes the important decision to get a dog for the kids, they should also make the commitment to enroll the dog (and its adolescent companion) in formal training classes. Dogs have a specific way of interacting, which includes an instinctual manner of communication. Learning how to communicate effectively with your dog in a language he understands is the first step toward establishing leadership and respect.
First and foremost, never buy a dog as a toy substitute. Dogs are living, breathing creatures with feelings. Children should be taught this fact from an early age and should be shown how to treat dogs with respect. By adopting a new dog for the right reasons and instilling the right mindset within the child, a parent takes the first step in avoiding undesired consequences, such as mistreatment and neglect.
After you have adopted a dog for the right reasons, go out and find a local trainer immediately before you become “dogged” with bad canine habits. In the meantime, here are a few safety tips to make sure your new pet and your child make it together safely to their first training class.
Never leave a child or baby alone with a dog. When visiting friends or relatives who have a dog, do not allow your child to play in the yard unsupervised. If that is not possible, ask the owners to put the dog away.
Do not allow your child to feed a dog unsupervised, as some dogs can be very protective of food. Also, never allow your dog to snatch food from your child. It not only teaches the dog bad manners, but it endangers the hand that feeds it.
Do not allow your child to pull on the dog’s collar to lead it outside the house, as it could bite them. Children without adult supervision should not be allowed to walk a dog, as the child could be dragged unwittingly into a fight with another dog. The dog should be taught to respond to a verbal command. However, if the dog does not respond to a verbal command given by the child, redirection should be given by the parent, not the child. In fact, under no circumstances should a child ever discipline a dog. That is the parents’ job.
In addition to the above tips to help a parent create a safe environment for their children and their new dog, here are some additional tips that parents should teach their children for when they are not around to directly supervise them. Children should be instructed to:
- Never pet a strange dog, even if his owner is present.
- Stay away from a dog while he is eating and sleeping.
- Stop your bike if chased while riding.
- Never retrieve a ball from someone else’s yard.
- If visiting friends who have dogs, ask them to put their dogs away if you want to play.
- Stay away from a dog that has puppies.
- Stay away from a dog that is tied up.
- Never pull a dog’s tails or ears; dogs feel pain, too.
- Never tease a dog or make it angry.
- Stand totally still if a dog runs at you barking. Cover your face with your hands. If knocked to the ground by a dog, roll into a ball, cover your face with your arms and stay as still as you possibly can. Do not try to get up.
Adopting a dog can be fun – both for the parent and the child. A dog can provide one of the best forms of companionship possible, it teaches the children some responsibility and it brings smiles to all. By following the above tips and enrolling your dog in a training course, you may soon have the dog food companies calling you for a TV spot.
Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery County, northern Chester County and eastern Berks County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit www.barkbusters.com.
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