A kid who respects a dog is not only a well-trained kid, he's also a kid who won't get bitten. Many dog bites occur because children don't know how to treat and respect a dog, including their own dog. So if you think letting the kids jump on the dog, pull his tail or try to play "horsey" with him sounds funny, think again.
Start "training" the kids as soon as possible. Toddlers might not understand complex dog psychology, but they'll understand "don't touch Doggie while he's eating." Rules can change as kids get older and have better control and understanding of their own actions. For example, a toddler might think it's cute to hug Doggie and kiss him -- except that in the excitement, he might half-choke the dog and annoy him to a point where Rover can't take him anymore. Once your toddler gets older, he can learn how to hug and kiss without the choking, so you can relax the rules then.
Set some basic rules. For example, "no touching Doggie while he's eating" should be the first one. "No touching Doggie while he's sleeping" should be the next one, even if your dog doesn't mind being touched while he's napping. This is because toddlers might not understand the difference between "touching" and "hugging, tickling or lying on Rover's tummy." And while Rover might be OK with some gentle touching, he might not be OK with somebody digging between his toes when he's trying to get some shut-eye.
Teach your child the proper way to pet Doggie. This means using open hands -- rather than touching or hitting the dog with toys or other objects -- and a soft touch. No hair pulling and no ear or tail pulling. No sitting on Rover or doing anything that might be painful. Even young kids understand what things cause an "ouch," so use that when trying to explain what they're not supposed to do to Rover.
Make sure kids understand the difference between their dog and a strange dog. Toddlers who live with a loving doggie at home might think all dogs are the same. They're not and it's never too early to learn that. Tell kids they should never approach or pet a dog they don't know. Also, no staring directly into the dog's eyes -- dogs may interpret this as confrontation. Doggie stuck behind a fence? Teach kids not to put their hand through to pet him.
Get kids involved in the care of your dog. Even toddlers can do basic things such as filling the water bowl. Teach your kid how to groom Doggie -- unless Rover hates being groomed, and then it's best if you do this on your own -- and how to give basic commands.
- Some dogs hate screaming or running children, and this is an important lesson. Teach your child to calm down around dogs, especially if you have a hyper dog or when he's around dogs you don't know.
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