How to train a child safe dog ; Part 2

‘Hugproof’ your puppy
Kids love to bend over and give dogs a big hug but in doggy body language this is a very threatening gesture. Just clipping your dog on lead also requires bending, reaching forward and grabbing the collar so you need to desensitize your dog to this action now. Reach for the collar slowly and gently then treat your dog. Gradually reach out and grab with a little more force. Repeat and treat hundreds of times with kids and adults.
Practice holding and restraining your dog in the same way. Work this exercise as a team with parent and child taking it in turns to hold the dog or to treat. Getting your dog use to being touched all over – the underbelly, ears, tail, feet – will make all health and veterinary care so much easier and will enable even your child to groom and care for your dog. This should be an exercise in mutual trust and acceptance rather than ‘boss dog’ techniques. Using force only works for those who are physically able to impose their will so generally such techniques are of no benefit to children as well as being unnecessarily, adversive and unpleasant. Handling should be a pleasurable experience for both people and dogs. Slowly increase the strength and length of your grabs and hugs rewarding consistently. .
Nip ‘Nip &Chase’
Don’t allow your dog to chase and nip kids. Practice soon becomes ‘habit’ and before you know it your kids are too afraid to go out in the backyard to play.
1. Teach kids to ‘be a statue’ by standing absolutely still, folding arms, and looking away from the puppy. If chasing and biting aren’t yet established as a habit your puppy will soon learn that ‘statues’ aren’t much fun to chase and will give up the game.
2. Reward your dog for ignoring fast motion, screams and giggles. This is particularly important for breeds with strong chase or herding instincts. Attach a lead and reward your dog with lots of tasty treats for remaining calm while kids play. This is a way of ‘desensitizing’ your dog to the sights and sounds of play. An audio tape of children playing can also help if your dogs seems particularly reactive to loud sounds. Start the tape at a volume low enough for the dog to hear without reacting and reward calm behaviour.
3. Apply commonsense management techniques such as putting the dog away in a crate or in the house with a tasty chew toy until things are a little more settled. Remember the less your dog gets to practice this behaviour the less he is likely to want to do it.
“I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours!”
Lots of dogs learn that if they play with their own toys no one takes an interest but if they play with something of yours, a great game of ‘catch me if you can’ can be initiated. This can be prevented by doing lots of ‘swaps’ with your puppy right from the first day. Take away things he has including toys and food, look at them and either give them back or give him something of even higher value such as a delicious food treat or favourite toy. Adults should initially practice this exercise, and then supervise the children and only then (if old enough) kids alone. This method is safer and more effective than expecting your dog to give things up simply because you are the ‘boss’. Being dominant over your dog may persuade him to give you a bone (reluctantly) but it will do nothing to safeguard your children or visiting children who may approach your dog when eating or chewing. Far better to change your dog’s opinion about the whole situation to the approach of any human – big or small – is good news for me!’

Part 3 of this article How to train a child safe dog (All Games have Rules) 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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