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Kids and Dogs A Safe Partnership
by Amy L. Robinson

            Introductions:

         To introduce your dog to new children, such as your child’s friends, allow the child to observe the dog first, preferably doing an easy command like sit.  If your dog knows a trick like shaking hands, demonstrating the trick will put them at ease.  Ask the child to hold out his hand to be sniffed.  Children want to put their hand on the dog’s head right away, but dogs need to sniff first.  Watch your dog’s body language to make sure he looks relaxed. Ask the child to hold his hand still and not to snatch it away.  If the child is nervous, you can have the child hold a biscuit in a flat hand to give to the dog, but never force the child to interact with your dog.  Sometimes just observing the dog behaving politely will help the child relax around the dog. Tell your children that only one child at a time can pet the dog.
 

            Safe Interaction:

         Avoid situations where the children and the dog become over-stimulated, as this is how accidents happen.  Examples of over-stimulation include rough play among the children that the dog observes, play using toys like bats or racquets which can appear threatening to the dog, and loud screaming or yelling which the dog may interpret as an injury or distress call that he may act upon.  Instruct your kids not to encourage chasing games, which can cause the dog to “herd” them with nipping and barking. Also, parents can use the Come command to re-direct the dog’s attention away from the kids. Praise the dog for following your lead.
 

            Appropriate Play:

         Make up games for your kids to play with the dog.  Hide and Seek is a great game to play with dogs and kids.  Use a favorite toy or treat.  Ask a child to show the toy to the dog, and then hide it in a fairly easy place, in full view of the dog, while you restrain him with a leash. Then say “find it” and let the kids lead the dog over to the hiding place, until he finds it.  Once the dog gets good at it, the kids can hide, holding the biscuit or toy. Both kids and dogs love this game, and it works indoors on rainy days, too. 

         Your dog wants to be included in family activities.  Showing your dog, and your kids, ways to play safely together will help solidify the bond and reap rewards for years to come


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