If you have children living in or visiting your home, it's vital to ensure they are always safe around your dog. The following tips will help prevent dog bites and keep both children and your dog safe:
Puppies go through a critical period of development between the ages of about 8 and 16 weeks. They are more likely to learn to accept and be comfortable with a variety of people and situations if they are introduced to them during this time. If you have a new puppy, introduce him to children in a positive way.
Having a well-behaved dog is the first step in ensuring the safety of children in your home. Teach your dog basic commands, such as sit and down, and you will be able to teach him how to behave around kids. For example, if his first impulse is to jump up to kiss visitors, teaching him to lie down instead will allow you to direct him into more appropriate behavior.
3. Practice Handling Exercises
Even the most well-behaved child sometimes can't keep himself from throwing his arms around a dog's neck or tugging on a dog's tail. Prepare your dog for this kind of attention before he runs into a child. Give him lots of praise and maybe even a few treats while you gently pull his tail, hold his paws, hug him, and check out his ears.
4. Don’t Allow Your Dog to Jump Up
You may not mind your dog jumping up on you to say hello, but not every visitor to your home will feel the same way. It can be especially dangerous when your visitor is a young child who can be injured if your dog knocks her over.
Your best bet is to not allow your dog to jump up at all. If your dog jumps up when you walk through the door, you can ask him to sit instead. If this doesn't work, try walking right back out the door when he jumps. Give him lots of attention and praise for keeping all four paws on the floor when you walk through the door. The dog will soon learn that it's far more rewarding not to jump up on people.
5. Introduce Dogs to Children’s Toys
Think about all the things children's toys can do. Dolls and stuffed animals often make funny, high-pitched noises. Bikes go whizzing by at a quick pace. Balls get tossed or kicked across the yard. All of these things can make it very tempting for your dog to steal, chew, or chase toys. While this can lead to toys being destroyed, it can also lead to children getting nipped or knocked over.
Introduce your dog to kids' toys without the kids around. This is when commands such as leave it and stay come in handy. Use those commands to keep your dog from stealing or chasing after toys. Be sure to redirect your dog to appropriate dog toys.
6. Act Like a Kid
Let's face it, kids behave differently than adults. They run and yell and move erratically. Try to introduce your dog to some of these behaviors yourself. Teach your dog to stay, and slowly work up to having him stay in one spot while you run around your yard or yell in a high-pitched, child-like voice.
You can also get your dog used to the way children behave by taking him to a park or playground. Keep your distance at first, and slowly work your way closer to the playing children. If your dog seems concerned at any point, take a few steps back and start over. Keep things fun, and use lots of praise and treats.
Dogs often do better around children if they have an escape route. Crate train your dog so that he is happy and comfortable in a crate. Make it clear to any children in your home that the crate is off limits to them. This way your dog can interact with the children when he wants to, but he also has a safe place to take a break.
8. Don’t Force a Dog to Accept Children
Some people think that holding a dog so a child can pet him is a good way to introduce dogs and kids. Not true! If a dog is afraid of children, holding him while one approaches and pets him can be a terrifying experience. A dog who is afraid can become aggressive and growl, snap, or bite in an effort to escape from the object of his fears - in this case, children. Instead allow your dog as much time as he needs to get comfortable around kids, and give him the chance to approach on his own terms.
The best way to build a good relationship between your dog and children is to use positive reinforcement. When your dog is behaving well around children, be sure to give him lots of praise, treats, and attention. Your dog will learn that good things happen to him whenever kids are around. Soon he'll be happily seeking out children, and keeping on his best behavior.
10. Give Children Rules
Dogs are not the only ones who need training. Children also need to be given rules about how to behave around your dog. Be sure any child who enters your home knows the following:
- The dog should be pet gently.
- Attention should not be forced on the dog.
- The dog's crate is off limits.
- Don't approach the dog while he's eating or chewing a bone.
- Leave the dog alone while he's sleeping.
- Make sure an adult is around when the dog is in the room. Children should never, ever be left unattended with a dog!