How to train a child safe dog ; Part 1

Millions of homes around the world are shared by dogs and kids. Growing up with a dog is thought to enhance a child’s self-esteem by providing companionship and unconditional love, as well as fostering responsibility and a greater sense of empathy for all living creatures. Yet expecting dogs and kids to get along without any adult direction, training or supervision can be a recipe for disaster.
Dogs under two years of age are ‘kids’ too. They need to learn not only good manners such as ‘sit’ and ‘come’ but more importantly make positive associations with typical family life encounters. One of the most important associations is that all humans particularly the small, active, noisy, clumsy, erratic, rough humans we call kids – are safe, trustworthy and even fun. This is unlikely to be achieved by throwing a puppy and child together and hoping for the best – neither a baby canine nor a baby homo sapien is up to that task. No matter how much your child may have begged for a dog and no matter what responsibilities they promised to take on – the ultimate responsibility is going to be yours – the adult – to S.E.E. (SUPERVISE, EXPOSE AND EDUCATE) the child and the puppy into a happy long term relationship.
SUPERVISE for safety
Supervision means taking control of all interactions between your child and dog to ensure a positive and safe experience for both parties. You may need to consider:
 How your child lifts, restrains, handles, pets and grooms your dog.
 How your child plays with your dog.
 Your child’s level of training skills. Training an animal is a challenge even for adults and requires an understanding of training techniques, timing, consistency patience and empathy. Involve children in training but be sure to be there to guide and coach.
 As a general rule, NEVER leave a young child and dog alone together. A dog should not be expected to tolerate the torments that small children may unintentionally inflict nor should you put your child at risk from a dog who may act aggressively for whatever reason.

EXPOSE to ‘Kidz Biz’
Most problems with dogs are predictable and occur as a reaction to inadequate socialization or exposure to children in a variety of situations. These problems can generally be prevented by providing frequent, positive experiences with kids from an early age.
If you don’t have kids of your own – beg steal or borrow some. For just as all kids should know how to behave around dogs ALL dogs should know how to behave around kids and the best time to start is the day you bring your puppy home.
You can use food treats (or part of your dog’s regular meal) to pair the presence of children with good things – the experts call this ‘classical conditioning’. If kids just stood still, that might be all you need to do but of course they don’t. Kids and young dogs love to be active, run wild and play games. With a little foresight you can prepare your dog for typical ‘kidz biz’ to produce a more child safe pet.
Part 2 of this article How to train a child safe dog (Hugproof your puppy) will be published next week

Article courtesy of Karin Larsen Bridge, owner of Get S.M.A.R.T. Dog Training, Sydney
You can also follow this and other articles at my publishing site

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