Introducing Young Children To Your Dog

We just recently had a 1.5 year old little girl come to our house. So far we have only had a little baby and a 5 year old boy come to our house. This is what we do to ensure success:

Pack Structure in Place – Dogs that know their position in the Pack do much better with children. Spoiling dogs leads to the biggest chance of bites and aggression toward children. Having a dog work and understand their rules goes a long way towards being good with children. It can be very difficult for a dog to view children as higher ranking and respect them. By following Pack Structure rules you really help to ensure success.

Premack Principle – Associating good things to children. When we had the 1.5 year old girl here we did a number of things to associate good things with her to our German Shepherd:

  1. Fetch – Delta loves fetch so we will play fetch while the little girl is present.
  2. Find your ball – Delta loves to find her ball in the house so we would play that game with the little girl running around.
  3. Tracking – We had the little girl and her mother go and hide on our property and off our property with Delta’s favorite ball. Delta loves to track after we taught her how to last summer. Delta found them in short order and her ball was tossed to her.

No Petting – Many people think you have to have the child pet the dog. This is one of the biggest chances for a dog to bite a child. All that you have to do to socialize a dog to a small child is play their favorite games next to the child. Delta was walking right passed the little girl playing games. The little girl could reach out and touch her but this was not necessary at all. This whole petting idea to socialize a dog can create a lot of problems.

When Delta was a puppy we would play a CD with the sounds of children playing while we played a game with Delta. I would also take Delta around schools and daycares on the opposite side of the fence just slightly away from the children playing and I would play games with Delta there and work on obedience.

I would also do things to Delta that a child likely would not do. I would practice playing a game and pull on her ears or her tail or legs. I would grab a handful of hair and pull a bit. We would also put Delta onto her back and wait for her to calm. I would hold her upside down and also cradle her like a baby. We proof a dog up for all of these things just in case a child does something to the dog it is not a surprise to that dog. However I always closely monitor dogs and children. If I cannot then we keep them separated.

Dogs can easily bite children. Some dogs are naturally good and some are naturally not good with children. The higher the pain tolerance a dog has the better they generally are with children. If a child grabs a handful of hair it won’t hurt a dog with a high pain tolerance. If you do this to a dog with low pain tolerance it can hurt the dog a lot which can elicit a bite.

Dogs that bite children are often put down. In almost all of these cases proper prevention and socialization can ensure harmony between dogs and children.

If you have a puppy or dog that you want to be excellent with children, give us a call. We would be more than happy to show you the proper techniques.