4 Ways to Help Your Kids and Pets Get Along

Family Matters on 10.28.12
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My toddler is tormenting the dog. I have tried many tactics to teach her how to let the dog approach her, but she finds chasing him much more exciting. She’s just turned two and I don’t think it is realistic for her to really understand the consequences of bothering the dog. Right now, the best I can do for each of their safety is to keep them out of each other's way as much as possible.

Many dogs tolerate kids who aren’t able to read their signals or respect their boundaries. Our dog is super sensitive compared to other dogs. He was fine when she was a baby, but once she started crawling he couldn't reconcile her behavior. Now that she is racing around, all she wants to do is be near him and the poor dog is miserable.

The ironic part is it seems like the dog wants to be right there with us all day when we play and he's the first one to scramble into her room in the morning to greet her. He wants their relationship to be on his terms, which includes whatever distance he determines is safe from her reaches.

My dogs were both rescued from an animal sanctuary and I have spent lots of time over the past 6 years training them. They are smart and for the most part obedient, except for the first two minutes anyone walks into the house when they are beyond control and all efforts to change that have failed. 

No matter how well behaved any dog is, they really should never be trusted unsupervised around children. All it takes is to have an irritated dog, whether due to a unnoticed toothache, or just having a bad day, combined with a child not aware of the signals the dog is communicating, for there to be an undesirable incident resulting in someone getting hurt.

I'm always aware of where my dogs are in relation to my child. Sometimes I need to physically separate them by putting the dogs in the fenced yard or secured in a different room when I can't keep a close eye on them. It's definitely a lot of work keeping everyone safe, but the dogs didn't sign up for a human sibling to arrive and they are animals, as much as I treat them like my other children.

1. Proper ettiquette. At an early age teach kids to ask before touching a pet and to put their hand out like a tree so that a dog can approach them. By not chasing after a pet, dogs can have an exit strategy should they feel threatened.
2. Solid boundaries. Dogs should not eat or play with their toys around kids. Even well-behaved, trustworthy dogs can get aggressive protecting their own special objects. When our dogs eat, we play in another room.
3. Sacred place. Create a safe spot for your pet, such as a secure crate. We are teaching our daughter to keep her hands off the crate and reminding her it is the dog’s special place where he can escape to when he needs alone time.
4. Books. Read lots of children's books about treating animals with respect. Our favorite is Tails Are Not for Pulling by Elizabeth Verdick.

How are you teaching your child to treat your family's pet with respect?

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