Three Dogs & TWO Babies: Polite Greetings for Dogs and Kids
Teaching your dog how to greet children is an essential skill towards training a well mannered dog. If a dog bites a person it is usually a child. Children are twice as likely to get bitten by dogs than any other person. There are lots of things that can be done to prevent this problem and make sure that your pooch does not add to that statistic. Since there are two parties involved here we should train both the child and the dog and teach them how to behave around each other.
The dog's job is fairly straight forward, he should sit or lie down and allow the child to pat him without getting over excited and knocking him over or stealing his cookies or toys. Teach a rock solid down/stay for greeting a child if your dog is an excitable or exuberant dog. This is helpful since not only does a large dog seem less intimidating, but he is also less likely to get up and knock the child over. For children who are timid around dogs this is crucial. In addition to having a reliable down/stay command, you'll also want to teach a reliable leave it command. When there is a problem between dogs and kids, it is often that children come bearing food that isn't intended for the dog, but the dog perceives it as being offered to him. If you watch a two year old with a hot-dog you'll know what I mean. Toddlers walk around like little drunks, waving food around as though they are going to launch it skyward any second. What self respecting dog wouldn't take advantage of an unsteady person half their size who's not careful about his food. The leave it command is going to save you not only the embarrassment of a stolen tidbit, but the possibility that your dog may bite the child in the process of stealing his food.
The kid training element of the child vs. dog greeting equation is easy to accomplish if you coach the child and remind him what to do. A child should be taught to ask before petting a strange dog. He should approach from the side not head on and hold his hand palm up for the dog to sniff. He should pat the dog on the shoulder or side, not directly on top of the head, and should never try to hug or kiss a dog that does not belong to him. Children often get bitten because they tend to do a lot of running and quick movements as well as stick their faces right in dogs faces. Dogs find face to face contact intimidating and rude and often bite to get the child to back off. A crucial safety tip to teach a child is to never put their face in a dogs face or run away from a dog that is chasing them. Supervised contact is essential for any child who is leery of dogs but vigilance is crucial for children who are super confident. They often take liberties with dogs they don't know well and the interaction often results in a bite.
Food issues are problematic for kids and dogs, and so to avoid a possible accidental bite it is wise not to let children eat where there are dogs present. Make the child eat his hot dog or ice cream at a table away from where the dog is, and don't allow wandering while eating. If the child is going to give the dog a cookie, it should be given by tossing it on the ground or in an outstretched palm up hand.
It's always a good idea for a child to have some direction from an adult while visiting with or playing with a dog. Showing him how to throw a ball or a favorite toy or teaching a simple trick is a way to allow child and dog to interact without the element of direct confrontation. Running children are targets for dog bites (playful or not) and therefore it is wise to put the dog away when the kids want to let loose. Herding breeds are especially prone to chasing and nipping since this is what they were bred to do. If your dog likes to chase, put him away when the kids are running wild, it's not fair to either to risk a bite.
In general if you give your dog some basic manners and teach your child to be respectful of a dog's space and needs, children and dogs can be the best of friends.
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