Bark All About It!
For a lot of people, their vision of the perfect idyllic home life involves having their children running around playing in the front yard, and a dog or two running around excitedly, right on their heels. It makes sense. We want our children to feel the constant love and affection that only a dog can provide, while also being protected by their furry friend.
But having dogs and kids under the same roof is actually a serious challenge. It’s easy for things to go wrong on one side or the other. A dog can become impatient and cranky around young children. In turn, small children can be too rough or even abusive with pets. In order to keep both children and their pups safe and happy, everyone has to do their part: parents, kids, and furry kids.
There is a lot to consider, a discussion that’s best split up across three separate blog pots. Today, we’re going to talk about a few rules for parents to follow when they decide to bring a dog home.
You, not your children, are responsible for the dog.
It’s common for parents to bring a family pet home, on the condition that the kids will take full responsibility for it. However, this can be problematic on a number of levels. First of all, it’s important that your dog understands that you’re the boss. Your children will likely struggle to achieve this dynamic. This is in part because children are rarely capable of being consistent enough in providing the proper socialization and training necessary for them to be happy and well-behaved. This isn’t a surprise, given that many adults struggle with this as well. A dog needs a strong and competent owner in order to properly regulate its behavior.
Also, you are legally responsible for your dog. If your children make a mistake that results in the dog, another dog, or another human being injured, you are the one who will be liable. Because of this, you have to be involved in the day to day life of your dog, establishing a strong relationship with your dog in which it’s made clear that you are the top dog.
The kids are responsible for the dog too.
This isn’t meant to contradict what we just said. You’re still in charge. However, EVERYBODY is a part of the family, and as such, everybody needs to be involved in the life of the family dog. It’s important that your pup learns that the kids have some control as well. This means that children need to be given opportunities to engage in structured play and training with their dog, as well as taking care of some of the day to day chores of having a dog. Keep in mind that children should be given responsibilities that are appropriate for their age, skill set, and maturity level.
You have to be ready to start proper socialization and training from day one.
This is especially important if there are babies or very small children in the house. For the safety of kids and dogs alike (too many dogs are abandoned or euthanized because of poorly trained dogs threatening or injuring a child), get them into a training class as soon as possible. You can’t ignore a dog, even if babies or kids are keeping you busy all day every day. You have to make the time to teach your dog the behaviors and appropriate boundaries that are necessary for them to be safe around small children.
Dogs are not toys. Do not allow them to be mistreated by a child.
We’ve all known a dog that was an absolute saint around small children. No matter how much his tail got pulled or his ears were chewed on, that angelic beast bore it all with infinite patience and humility.
However, most dogs don’t have this much patience, nor should they be expected to tolerate anything and everything. Failing to address situations in which a child repeatedly bothers, teases, or even hurts the family pet will result in you having a dog that is either (a) deeply unhappy, poorly behaved, cranky, and avoidant, or (b) that will suddenly snap (literally and figuratively) and cause potentially serious injury to the child.
Just as you have to be ready and willing to properly socialize and train a dog when you bring it home, you have to be willing to do the same with your children as well.
While all of this may sound a little unpleasant, remember that being a parent requires even more responsibility. But with both children and pups, the happiness and joy they bring into a home more than justifies the work you have to invest.