Will it ever finally be summer? According to the calendar, summer started in June but it sure hasn’t felt like it this year. If the rain ever stops, we’ll all be spending more time outside with our pets and our kids. Having your child take responsibility for a pet can be a wonderful learning experience, but there are things that parents and other caregivers need to be aware of in order for your child to have a good relationship with his or her pet.
There nothing much cuter than seeing a child rolling around on the ground with a new puppy. Puppies, however, tend to see their human friend as another puppy and will often engage in play biting and other normal but unacceptable behaviors. The mouthiness of a puppy is not an indication of aggression but he should learn that it is not OK to put his mouth on a person. When this happens, a firm NO followed by a period of not playing with the puppy will help control the behavior. He will quickly learn that if he play-bites, no one will play with him. Redirecting the puppy into a game of catch or something similar is also a useful method. Older children should be encouraged to help with the discipline and if a child is too young to do this, the adult should step in. Puppy classes are a great way to help with training and many classes will allow older children to attend. The puppies get a chance to socialize and you get a chance to teach your puppies useful commands such as sit, down and stay.
Of course, your own dog is not the only one your children will be exposed to. Most people who are bitten by dogs are children. Part of the reason is that most don’t have a natural respect for dogs or have any idea that they could get hurt. They also are unfamiliar with the signs that could alert them to a dog who may be aggressive. Even dogs that may normally be friendly could react if suddenly jumped on or hugged by an unfamiliar child. It is important to teach children to always ask permission before approaching a strange dog. She should walk up slowly and say the dog’s name. If the dog reacts negatively at all — for example, holding the head and ears down, tail tucked, hair on the back going up, backing away or certainly growling, keep the child away and maybe wave at the dog from a distance and move on.
If you are out and about and letting your child walk the dog, be aware that younger children cannot adequately control a dog. Even if your dog likes other dogs, not all dogs feel the same way. If your dog should pull free and run over to a dog-unfriendly dog, your dog is at risk of being hurt. He could also get away and run away, or worse, run into the road. An adult or older child should always be with the dog on the walk and be prepared to take the leash if needed.
For most children, having a dog in their life will give them lots of joy and fond memories and by learning to play it safe, we can foster those feelings into adulthood. Next month we will look at bringing a baby into a home with pets.
For more about your pets and the summer, stop by our office to see our new display and some pictures of our staff having fun with their own pets.