Can dogs and kids live together in harmony?
Dog and kids can live together in harmony and share many happy years together. Start the training…for both child and dog… very early.
It is important to establish the boundaries with both the dog and your child. That means showing your child the dog’s things belong to the dog, just as her own things are not meant for the dog to mangle. Setting boundaries also requires that you show your child that the dog’s dog bed or crate is a special spot for the dog, like the child’s own bed, and she should be told to keep out of the crate and leave the bed or mat for the dog to sleep on.
How to Establish Boundaries
This should be done in two parts:
Show your child that there are rules about taking things that don’t belong to you. Begin by showing your child that you are not allowing the dog to take her toys, clothes, bedding, and food. Be gentle but firm with the dog during the lesson. Remember: lots of dogs think, hey, if its on the floor it MUST be for me.
So when Big Dog approaches, inform him with a strong uh-uh (negative mark) that will arrest the behavior. Praise him when he stops moving toward it. Substitute the child’s toy with a dog toy to show him, “you may not have this, but you may have this!” Substitution is a great way to convey to the dog that he chose wrong but it’s not the end of the world, and there are other choices you can make! When he takes the toy that belongs to him and not the child, praise him wildly.
Its important for the child to see this exercise because it conveys that each party has a responsibility, the dog must stay away from her toys and then, in the second part of the lesson we show the child that the same rule applies to her: she must not take the toys hat belong to the do. It may be a bit tricky if he has the item in his mouth so try to stage or schedule the boundary setting lessons like you would any other training.
Now reverse the game and show your child the things that belong to the dog and may not be played with. Things like the crate (dangerous if a child should try to crawl in with a territorial dog), food bowl and favorite toys should be identified as off limits to your child. Show her that you are enforcing the same rules with the dog and you expect her to do the same. Gently and firmly substitute the dog’s toy for her toys, as you would when training the dog. Praise and reward for the right choices.
Make it fun and silly. OK, I have a well known habit of doing this for just about anything but if you keep it light instead of scolding either party for making a mistake, you will teach your child an important lesson: that having patience and humor when showing the dog how to behave is the absolute right way to go about training him to do (or not do) anything.
Is this possible? Sure it is, I have done it with my own child. It took time but now we all have an understanding about boundaries. This training for children engenders respect for animals, boundaries, and a healthy sense of ownership. Heck, you may even inadvertently teach your child to pick up her toys. Not bad.