Could you be one of them? Chances are, yes, and not because you’re a bad parent, but because dogs are so often misunderstood. So don’t feel bad if you’ve made a few mistakes; we’re here to help you fix them.
Can you plead guilty to any of these?
1. Taking pictures of your kids “loving up” your dog
Parents love pictures of their kids smooching their dog - sadly, most dogs aren’t fans.
So asking your kid to trap your dog in a hug and then pose face to face is uncomfortable for your dog and risky for your kid.
The fix: Teach your kids to ALWAYS pet gently with ONE hand (it’s less tempting to hug). And if your pup can’t sit still for a picture (without being held) take candid shots of everyone having fun safely instead.
2. Letting your kids approach dogs any time they choose
In the dog world there are times when it’s just not cool to be all up in each other’s bees-wax. When it comes to eating, chewing, sleeping, or being confined it’s polite to let them be. Even the nicest dogs can snap when interrupted one too many times.
The fix: Teach kids when to have fun with dogs, and when to give them the space they need.
3. Asking the owner, not the dog
Parents are great at reminding their kids to ask the dogs’ owner before petting. But the problem is that 99% of owners say ‘yes’ regardless of whether the dog actually likes children. The good news is that the dog will tell you herself how she feels, so make SURE to ask her too.
The fix: Tell your kids to wait 6 feet away and encourage the dog over. If she happily goes up to them, then game on! If not, it’s totally cool to pick another dog or another day.
4. Grabbing stuff from your dog’s mouth
It seems harmless enough to make your dog give up stuff she shouldn’t have, right? After all, she could trash it or earn herself a trip to the vet. True, but it’s HOW you do it that counts. Without meaning to, you can easily train a dog to be dangerous around stolen goods by constantly taking them away without giving anything back. BIG RED FLAG! Dogs who are worried about people taking something they have are way more likely to bite, and kids are often the easiest targets.
The fix: Teach your dog to LOVE giving things up by always offering her something better in exchange.
Now if you’re reading this and thinking “my dog would never…” sadly, we can tell you that when pushed many dogs WILL. But which ones? A cute-o-meter certainly won’t tell you - so help your kids be dog-savvy by teaching them how to act around ALL dogs, and what better place to start than at home?
Leah Hatley and Justine Schuurmans are professional trainers and owners of thefamilydog.com, a website that specializes in educating the whole family on how to interact with their dog or puppy. To learn more about the online program and see free training videos visit www.thefamilydog.com.