Sunday, 3 February 2013

Safe, positive, child-dog relationships

Sometimes we find that unpredictable or loud children can be a cause of stress for a family dog. Here are a few tips to help you manage happy children and dogs!

  • We must all understand with biting behaviour; a puppy is not being nasty or aggressive.  He is just behaving in the same way as he would when interacting with his litter mates, but he needs to learn that this is not OK when he is interacting with people.
  • Baby gates are a great tool. With the dog on one side and the child the other, the child can safely ask for a command such as a sit and drop the dog a treat when he does it.  Practised over several weeks/months, this also teaches a dog not to jump up at children but to  sit/lie down in front of them and in time will  teach them to copy this behaviour elsewhere without a barrier.
  • Young children should always be supervised and taught to place treats on the floor. This way the dog learns not to raid young children’s hands for treats and that everything comes from the floor near him.  It also teaches a dog to stop before reaching a small child and search the floor, thus preventing the risk of a dog jumping up and knocking the child over.
  • Help your children to learn more about dogs and how to behave well around them. The Kennel Club Safe and Sound Scheme has some great free resources 
  •  Teach your dog ‘gently’:
-   Get a treat in your hand and show your dog what you have got. Make sure he does not snatch it from you.  If he does, close it in your hand.

-    Close your fist on the treat, and hold it out towards the dog.

-   Let him sniff your hand and when he is calm, preferably when he is sitting, open your hand so the dog can take the treat from the palm of your hand.  If he goes to snatch, close your hand again.

-     Try to refrain from saying anything.

-    Repeat this several times. If the dog tries to scrabble or bite at your fist, just close your hand. Try again in a few seconds, waiting until the dog is calm before you present the treat. In time, the dog will learn that he is only rewarded with the treat when he does not snatch. If he starts licking your hand, then open it up for the treat.  You are looking for a more gentle behaviour and when this is offered, you can open your hand and add the command ‘gently’.

-   With practice your dog will learn the consequence of this and then other people can try giving him a treat.  Make sure you leave children to last when the dog has really got the hang of taking a treat gently. 

For more tips and advice on safe dogs around the family, please do feel free to contact Katie on 07841 517543  or email her at

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