With the Kids

5 Tips for Your Dogs and Kids to Co-Exist

Ty Brown from Dog Behavior Online is an expert dog trainer, helping dog owners from around the world train their pets. He’s here today as my guest sharing some fabulous tips to help kids and dogs co-exist!

Every year there are hundreds of thousands of dog bites that require medical attention in the United States.  The majority of these dog bites occur with children.  This is a tragic and unfortunate reality that could almost be entirely avoided with proper dog ownership and training.

The following are five steps that are critical if you are going to have a harmonious relationship between your canine pal and your children.

Photo by treegirl

1- Supervise, supervise, supervise.  As parents we understand the importance of supervising our children.  Most parents develop a ‘sixth sense’ and seem to know what their children are up to in the home.  Most dog parents, however, are lacking when it comes to supervising their dogs.  As much as we love our dogs it is important to remember that they are animals.  Animals exist, communicate, and interact on a completely different level from us humans.  Animals don’t reason like we do and even the best trained of dogs can find themselves with problems when supervision lapses.

Dogs and kids shouldn’t be left alone together.  This is true of any breed and should be followed even with dogs that have never shown any aggressive tendencies.

2- Establish boundaries. If you have a new baby in the home it is best to keep your dog out of the nursery for at least a few weeks.  Teach your dog a ‘paws off’ policy when it comes to your child’s toys, clothing, and other personal items.  It is important to establish that there is something different about your child and that your dog needs to exercise a respect for the child’s space and boundaries.

3- Avoid allowing children and dogs to share furniture and beds. This isn’t always the case but some dogs will see an elevation in height as a challenge of authority.  When kids are on the couch and the bed keep the dogs off.

4- Work on obedience training! There is nothing that most children can do to establish authority with a dog.  What is important is that your dog views your children as your ‘possessions’; essentially an extension of you.  If your dog respects you then it stands to reason he will respect your possessions, including your children.  Obedience training is the best way to establish a proper relationship and it effectively puts you as the head of the household.

5- Use common sense. This may sound like a silly step to include but I see too many problems with kids and dogs occurring because there is a breakdown of common sense somewhere along the way.  Common sense tells you that children have a lesser capacity for predicting dog behavior and dogs are animals.  These two entities combined, without common sense, can lead to major issues.  So make sure to establish policies, rules, and structure in your household to avoid potential problems between your kids and your dogs.

There is nothing more rewarding than having a home where dogs and kids both fit in seamlessly with each other.  As with everything, though, it will require work and effort on your part.

Thanks, Ty, for these fabulous tips. Visit Ty’s website, Dog Behavior Online, for helpful advice on training your dog. 

9 comments

  1. Training your kids to respect the dog is helpful as well—keeping the kids away from the food dish, not letting them pull on tails, ears, etc. No point in scolding the dog when the toddler just yanked some of his fur.

  2. Hi Rana, I recommend that people start training ASAP, meaning as soon as the dog comes home at 8-9 weeks of age. There really is no reason to wait or put it off. I also never recommend that people take their dogs to group obedience classes. Group classes are rarely very effective and you are better served to find a great trainer who will do private sessions in your home. Good luck.

  3. We just got a puppy a couple of months ago. I have been doing some of what you are outlining in this list. Especially trying not to leave the kids alone with the dog. I just get uneasy when I can’t see what the kids and the dog are doing. We need to get the pup into obedience training. What age should I look into taking him? He’s 6 months old now.

  4. Ty I’ve listened to you on KZHT 97.1 FM the Tuesday mornings you’re there. You really know your stuff! I’m sure that after listening to you and your tips on how to train dogs, I’ll be good and ready when I finally give in to my 4-yr-old’s convincings that we need a dog. :)

  5. I love that video.

    The supervise rule is a good one. I remember our dog Heidi never ever ever showed any signs of agression. Then, one day, a baby was poking around in her food bowl while she was eating, and she snapped at him. She almost bit him! It shocked me because she was the sweetest dog. But, like you say, dogs don’t reason like we do. And even the most docile dog can react badly to a child’s innocent intentions.

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