Ask the Trainer | Are puppies and children a good mix?
Special to the Sun
Our family has decided to get a puppy. We had a dog before having kids, but have never had one since the kids were born and they are now 7 and 9. Do you have any advice on selecting a pup and what to do once we bring him home? We really want the kids to be involved in the training and care.
Expanding the Family
Your kids are a great age to share in the responsibilities of raising a puppy, however bringing a puppy (or any dog) into a home with children needs to be done carefully. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), 800,000 people seek treatment for dog bites each year in this country and half of those cases involve children. Children under the age of 9 are most at risk. A note to all readers; young children, especially babies and toddlers, should never be left unattended with a dog. Before you bring a dog into a home with young children, carefully consider the management that will be required to keep everyone safe.
The best insurance against bad things happening is to carefully select the right puppy for your family, manage interactions between children and puppies (or dogs), create lots of positive social interactions for the young pup so they become calm confident dogs, and involve your children in the training and care of the puppy.
1. Puppy selection. Look for a healthy, outgoing, friendly puppy who really seems to enjoy your children, not just tolerate them. Itand#8217;s tempting to want to and#8220;saveand#8221; the shy pup hiding under the table, but itand#8217;s likely heand#8217;ll be a shy, fearful dog who may not cope well with the chaos of a home with kids. You should also avoid the high energy pup who never settles down.
2. Management. Crates are wonderful management tools for puppies. They are invaluable for house-training and provide an easy place for a puppy time-out when the activity level gets too high. Properly introducing a puppy to a crate is important so they develop a positive association with it. The other essential management tool is a baby gate (or two). This will allow you to easily separate the puppy from the room if heand#8217;and#8217;s underfoot or biting at the kids while they run around the living room.
3. Positive associations. A commonly sited rule is and#8220;100 positive associations in the first 100 days.and#8221; By the age of 17 weeks, puppies need to be exposed in a positive way to everything they may encounter in their world. This includes sights, sounds, smells, and experiences. Itand#8217;s a big job!
4. Care and training. Develop a chart of responsibilities and assign names! House-training a puppy takes constant supervision and puppies need to be fed three to four times per day. Develop a schedule so everyone in the house does their part. Finding a good positive reinforcement-based puppy class that encourages children to participate is a great way to start the training process. However, as the parent it is important that you set the rules for their conduct in class. The kids must listen and participate so they donand#8217;t distract the other attendees. I also like to teach kids training games they can play with the puppy. This gives them a constructive way to interact instead of getting the pup wound up and then yelling when he is biting them! Great games include fetch and tug (with rules), red light/green light, puppy in the middle, and find the treat.
Children can learn kindness, patience and responsibility by helping to raise a puppy the right way. Good luck!
and#8212; Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog Training and Education Center in Truckee. If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email her at email@example.com.
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