Dogs and children can be the most wonderful combination. Dogs can bring out the best in children, they can boost their self-esteem and teach them a lot about responsibility. Getting a puppy is nearly every child's dream but the dream can be quickly shattered when the puppy comes home and reality sets in.
Children can understandably treat their puppy as if it was one of their toys: they hug them, pick them up, kiss them, prod and poke them. Many puppies are incredibly tolerant during these interactions with their small humans but these interactions can be extremely stressful for the puppy. The puppy is forming emotions based on their experiences all the time and they learn very much in patterns and by association. It's then not surprising that the children get the majority of the puppy biting as many of their interactions simply either stress or over arouse the puppy.
Create A Safe Space It's important that the puppy has an area that they can hang out in without the worry of being bothered by the children. A playpen is a must when you have children and a puppy in the same house, this should be adult-only zone.
3 Second-Hand Game The aim of this game is to help children understand how to interact with the puppy and for the child to learn when the dog is saying 'No'. The child can stroke the dog for 3 seconds, then after 3 seconds they completely remove their hands from the dog. The dog then can choose what they'd like to do next, during this time it's important to teach children some dog body language. If the dog gets up and moves away, or turns their head then this is game over, no more interactions at that moment but if the dog moves closers, climbs on the child's knee then it can be an invitation that the dog is happy to continue the interaction.
Learn To Read Your Dog
As a parent, it is so important to understand what your dog is communicating at all times. Take time to learn about dog body language and get to the know the dog in front of you. My top tip, a waggy tail does not always mean that your dog is happy, just like you can smile when you're scared, learn to read between the lines. Four Paws On The Floor
Children like to pick the puppy up for cuddles, if your puppy could speak then they would tell you how much they don't like to be picked up. Children should be taught that picking up the puppy is not allowed. There are several reasons for this, puppies have soft and fragile bones and they can't handle unnecessary stress, it can hurt a puppy to be picked up incorrectly. A puppy can find it very stressful to be picked up, if the subtle signs are missed then their reaction may be to bite, all of this can be avoided if the puppy is not picked up in the first place.
Children should never be left alone with the puppy, if you are unable to supervise these interactions then the puppy should be in their safe space.
Include The Children
It's so important to include the children by sharing some of the responsibilities for the dog. This can be helping with meal times, playing appropriate games, walking the dog and training. Including the children will help to grow confidence around the puppy and the puppy will be forming positive associations with the children.
Through careful management and training, you can create a harmonious home where everyone stays happy.