Paws A While

Children & Dogs

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Having children and dogs together can be a great experience. Most dogs end up bonding strongly with children in the family and the love between a child and a dog can be a wonderful thing. However, many people assume that dogs should be willing to tolerate absolutely anything a child does. Some parents will allow their children to chase, poke, pull tails and annoy the family pet! While some dogs can tolerate this, this puts the child in immense risk if the dog decides it has finally had enough.

The best way to avoid a potentially dangerous situation is to supervise all interactions between your dog and your kids. Even if your dog is friendly & gentle, remember that it only takes a few seconds for a child to accidently hurt a dog and for the dog to react. If you supervise diligently, you can step in when necessary to avoid bad experiences for both your dog and your children.

What signs are you looking for as a parent? If a dog shows their teeth or growls at a child, obviously they are feeling overwhelmed and reacting. But there are subtle signs that you can pick up before such dramatic behaviours occur. It is much safer to learn and recognise early warning signs that a dog is feeling uncomfortable, overwhelmed or uncomfortable.

The first signs that a dog is getting uncomfortable is often a ‘freeze’ or a hard stare. Some dogs will simply run away and some dogs will also prick their ears back when they are feeling anxious. If these signs fail to deter the action that is making the dog uncomfortable, the signs may escalate to snarling, growling and biting.

If you aren’t able to supervise the interaction between your dog and children, it is best to confine the dog in a safe area away from the kids. If you teach your dog to be comfortable in a crate, you can easily put them away when necessary. A crate also provides a safe place for your dog to sleep & eat without worrying about children bothering them. Make sure that children cannot access your dog’s confinement area as this needs to be the dogs ‘safe space’.

To accomplish a good relationship between pets and children, there should be frequent positive interactions for the young pup to meet children during its early months of life. Puppies are most social and receptive to learning up to 16 weeks of age; the experiences and interactions they have during this time can make a lifelong impression. This means that if a young child accidentally hurts a young puppy, the puppy may be scared or act inappropriately towards children all its life. Ongoing positive experiences between children and puppies are essential to maintain healthy social relationships.

Puppies should be introduced to children when they are calm, and treats should be used to facilitate introductions; this allows the puppy to build a positive association with children. Positive interactions at a young age help prevent the development of fear, avoidance behaviour and aggression when the pet becomes older.

All family members should make a point of gently and positively handling the puppy in ways that a child might touch it.

This may mean that you give the puppy treats while touching the tail, ears, body as well as during grooming, nail trimming and teeth brushing. This will allow the puppy to become used to handling and not become fearful. Any type of physical punishment, threats with the hand or forceful interactions should be avoided. Pets must learn that the human hand is friendly and not to be feared; if pets associate hand movement with threats or discomfort, they can bite when a child moves a hand towards them as they may associate it with a previous negative interaction.
Puppy Preschool classes that encourage family attendance can be a great way for puppies to interact with other dogs, people and children in a controlled environment. However, it is important that puppies are not overwhelmed so they do not develop fear or avoidance behaviour towards other animals or people.

For further information about integrating a new puppy into the family call Orchard Hills Veterinary Hospital on 0247362027.

Please feel free to pop in anytime and meet the team at Orchard Hills Veterinary Hospital. For more information check out our Facebook, website www.orchardhillsvet.com.au , Instagram @orchardhillsvethospitalgrooms or call 02 4736 2027.

Article Written + Submitted by: Kellie Tickner from Orchard Hills Veterinary Hospital
A: 377 Wentworth Rd, Orchard Hills P: 4736 2027

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