A dog and a child in the same house [behaviorist advice
A dog and a child in one house
Today I will discuss another topic important to me that many people ask about. Whether a child and a dog are under the same roof is a good or bad idea? And here I will answer diplomatically - it does not have to be a bad idea, but under several conditions.
Life situations are different and we have to adapt to them. Let's assume that we have a dog for several years, but we decide to enlarge the family and a child appears, so this new relationship must be set for the benefit of the dog and the child, of course.
I also know many people who would like to adopt a dog from a shelter, but there is already a child in their home and they are afraid of how this relationship will develop and whether there will be tensions between the dog and the child or whether the dog will threaten the child's safety.
But let's start with the basics. I firmly believe that a dog and a child can create a happy duo if we establish certain rules at home that all household members will follow. In such a situation, when everything is clear, we will behave in a responsible, predictable manner (it can be a challenge for children) and respecting the dog's boundaries, we can create a really nice relationship.
Besides, children brought up in a harmonious way with dogs gain resistance, learn empathy towards animals, delicacy and responsibility, and in adulthood they usually want their own dog, so there are many advantages of such a solution.
- The age of the child
- Dog's asylum
- Separate toys
- Dog bowl
- Conversation with the child
- Rules for communing with the dog
- Dog care
- Dog body language
- Kinderbal at home
- Kennel cage
- Equally distributed love
- Learning basic commands
- When to join a dog in a family with a child?
- Possible problems
- A dog as a gift for a child
The age of the childThe age of the child
Of course, for a good relationship to form, both parties must cooperate. Therefore, the age of the child is important here. If we have a baby, all responsibility for his behavior towards the dog rests with the parents. Such a small child is not able to behave in a calm and quiet way with the pooch yet, because it is simply too small.
However, if we already have a child who learns quickly and is able to assimilate certain rules of behavior with the dog, we can work on such a relationship.
In both cases, however, safety is key, so try not to leave your dog and child unattended in the same room. Even if we have a well-mannered, patient dog, one careless gesture or throwing a toy may stress the dog and may show his dissatisfaction.
Another important issue is to create separate rest zones for the dog and the child, where the dog will be able to go to relax. There will also be his lair, toys and possibly bowls. This is a dog-only zone, so family members should respect this place as their sanctuary and not disturb them there.
Separate toysSeparate toys
In order not to provoke the dog to defend resources, it is important that both the child and the pet have their own separate toys and do not have access to their own toys. This is because what may seem cute, i.e. playing with a child's plushie together, may (but of course not have to) turn into a problem when the dog considers the stuffed animal its toy and starts to growl at household members who will want to take it away from him. It will be a defense of resources. However, if it happens that the dog takes the child's toy, we exchange with him for something equally attractive, e.g. his own toy or treat. We can also use the command "leave " or "let go " if the dog knows them.
Bowls are another topic. Usually, we put the bowls in the kitchen or living room, in some public place. And it sometimes happens that when the dog eats, our baby crawls towards him, because he is curious what the dog is doing and comes too close to the bowls or puts his hands in the bowl or tries to pet the dog. This is obviously not a good idea, because the dog should eat in peace and he may get stressed when someone tries to take his food and growls (this is again defending the resource of food).
Of course, the baby has no idea about all of this, so the parents should look after the baby at the time of feeding the pooch so as not to lead to possible conflicts.
Conversation with the childRules for communing with the dog
When the child is a little older, it is worth talking to him about the fact that the dog is a living creature, has its own needs, and that its boundaries should be respected and you should care for it in a responsible way.
It is also worth writing down a few rules (and, for example, hanging it on the fridge) on how the child should behave with the dog, so that everyone is happy.
Rules for communing with the dog
Here are some rules that you may find helpful:
- we do not pull the dog by the tail or the ears,
- we do not kiss or hug unexpectedly, because the dog may feel surprised and thus endangered,
- we do not hug it by the neck, hanging on it,
- we do not pick up the dog abruptly,
- we do not stroke his head strongly, safer places are the dog's sides, belly or back; contrary to appearances, not every dog likes stroking on the head,
- we do not run after the dog and shout, "encouraging " it to play,
- we do not take the dog's toys or food and we do not go to its bowls or to the dog's lair,
- we try to make only gentle and gentle gestures with the dog,
- we do not raise our voices in front of him,
- we do not disturb the dog when it is resting, nor do we suddenly wake it up from sleep,
- we don't make him play when he doesn't feel like it.
Dog careDog care
If the child's age allows it, we include him in caring for the dog to deepen their bond. This teaches the child to be responsible and to care for a living creature.
How such care could look like?
- We ask the child to put food in a bowl and place it on the ground, encouraging the dog to eat.
- We ask the child to make sure that the dog always has clean water in the bowl.
- We can also gently brush the dog with the child.
- If the child likes such things, we can teach the pooch together simple tricks such as sitting down, lying down, retrieving or coming back on call.
Walking the dog is an important topic. I have noticed that many people let their children (even quite small ones) go alone for walks with their dogs. Sometimes nothing happens, but there are times when it's a really bad idea. If the child is small and the dog is strong, it is easy to imagine a situation that the dog throws itself on something or wants to run somewhere and tears the leash out of the child's hand.
In addition, if it happens that the dog does not like other dogs or people and is aggressive on a walk, the chances that the child will cope in the event of a conflict and keep a cool head are also not too high.
If, on the other hand, we have a so-called vacuum cleaner dog who loves to collect waste on a walk, it is possible that the child will not notice the moment when the dog eats something dangerous on the walk and then becomes ill.
Therefore, I strongly encourage the child and the dog to walk, but under the supervision of their parents.
Dog body language
Let us also sensitize our child to the signals that the dog sends when he is not comfortable and stressed. When the dog growls or bares its teeth, licks its lips, turns its head, tucks its tail or moves away from us, it means that it is not feeling well and you should move away or change its behavior. For his safety and ours too!
Kinderbal at home
Moreover, when other children come to visit our child, we provide the dog with a safe shelter. High noise level, unpredictable children's behavior is too much of an experience for any dog, even the bravest!
If the dog uses the kennel cage as a safe haven, try not to lock it in it when the child is running loose. When the child runs to the cage and e.g. he will start to put his hands or throw toys or hit the bars with a bang, the dog may get stressed and will not be able to run away. It will be a very difficult and frustrating situation for him.
Equally distributed love
Remember that the birth of a child is also a huge change for the dog itself. So far, all attention and love has been focused on him, but in the meantime a new household member appears and the dog has much less attention of this attention. Walks may become shorter and "dog parents" may not have as much time as before for carefree games in the park.
Therefore, it is important to distribute love as evenly as possible and take into account the fact that it is also a big change for the dog.
Learning basic commands
If we are expecting a child or we know that we will be guests in places where there are children, it is worth that the dog has some useful commands that will facilitate our contacts. The basics that the dog is usually able to learn relatively quickly include:
- recall (command "to me ") when the dog is playing too much with the child, or runs towards him with impetus,
- "Go away " when the dog, for example, tries to jump into a crib or a stroller,
- "Leave " when the dog takes the child's toy or clothes,
- "To the place " when we want the dog to go to its lair,
- simple "sit " to calm the dog's emotions and give himself extra space.
When to join a dog in a family with a child?When to join a dog in a family with a child?
This is also a common question. In my experience and observations, trying to care for a new dog and a newborn baby can be difficult. The child takes time, full attention and work, but the same is true for the dog. The prosaic lack of time and logistical problems (i.e. how to go out with a dog and a child at the same time, for example, when it turns out that the dog is afraid of a pram or a baby crying) can become a big obstacle and in such situations it is better to postpone this decision when we have more time and living space.
Of course, as with any change, there may be some problems and stress. It may turn out that the dog will try to protect the child, or will be afraid of its crying or bark at it, or will try to look in the stroller non-stop during a walk or gently jump on the baby. It is always worth working on. Many trainers and behaviorists deal with such problems in their professional work and help to establish a good child-dog relationship, so you can benefit from their knowledge and support.
A dog as a gift for a child
Finally, I would like to mention a very important aspect. Unfortunately, it still happens that the dog is treated as a good gift for the child, as a whim, but it is a living creature. It often ends badly - the child quickly becomes bored with the dog and the parents are burdened with the burden of taking care of and going out with the dog, or arranging the puppy. This breeds a lot of frustration and conflict that reflects on the dog. It also happens that the child is insensitive to the dog and treats it as another toy, which makes the animal suffer, so I strongly encourage you to carefully analyze whether the dog is a good idea. After all, he will stay with us for many years and should be an equal member of the family.
To sum up - a dog and a child can create a nice duo, if we follow only a few rules, the child will be at an age when he is able to take responsibility for his actions and understands their consequences, and we, as parents, will take care of everything. Good luck!
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