5 Steps to Introducing a Child to Your Dog
1. Make sure the child has a space where they can watch the dog from a protected spot. Behind a baby gate or from a crib should work.
2. Allow the child to smell and taste items belonging to the dog—toys, blankets, etc.
3. Charge the clicker. Click and immediately pop a favorite treat into the child’s mouth. Repeat 4 or 5 times. Some treat ideas? Cheerios, M&Ms, blueberries, or small pieces of cheese.
4. When the child looks calmly at the sitting dog without screaming or waving her arms, click and treat.
5. Slowly increase the intensity by having the dog walk or play while clicking and treating the child for her calm response.
Eventually, after many days of incremental progress, the child will be able to calmly approach the dog from the side and pet him nicely.
What have we learned from this simple method to introduce a child to your dog?
Don’t Take Dog Training Advice From People Who Know Nothing
In my defense, clicker training is an effective way to teach people (click the link to see a fun video on clicker training the Fosbury Flop for the high jump). I suspect a clicker would be a great tool for teaching pre-verbal children.
But teaching children and dogs how to interact safely is too important to leave to a moron. Luckily, there are some awesome resources for keeping children safe around dogs.
- Mel of No Dog About It features an excellent video in Dog Stress and Babies—Do You Know What to Look For?
- Aleksandra of Love and a Six-Foot Leash is a new mama. In Dogs and Baby—The Secret to Success, she writes eloquently about our responsibility to make sure our dogs are comfortable around (not just tolerant of) children. She also links to the posts she wrote on preparing the dogs for the new baby.
- Jennifer Shyrock promotes safety for families with dogs at Family Paws Parent Education If you need extra help, she even has links to trainers who specialize in helping families with children and dogs live happy and safe lives.
- Dr. Sophia Yin has two free posters you can download that show how children should (and shouldn’t) interact with dogs The posters are informative and just plain adorable with artwork by Lily Chen of Doggie Drawings.
This information is so useful you should bookmark this post now and send it to everyone you know who is introducing their dogs to children or children to dogs.
But what if you don’t have kids, don’t want kids, and none of your friends have kids. Is any of this important?
What Every Dog Person Should Know About Kids
They’re everywhere! Where do they all come from?
You’d almost think they were the result of something fun, like sex.
When Honey and I are out walking, I see kids pointing her out to their moms. Most of the time, their parent tells them to politely ask if they can meet my dog. But every once in a while, a toddler will
slip her leash run toward Honey shrieking and waving her little arms.
I don’t worry.
- We worked hard to teach Honey bomb-proof bite inhibition.
- Honey can sit and stay calmly in the presence of a runaway toddler.
- If the parents don’t take charge of their child, safety first. Honey and I can outrun any toddler, if necessary.
Unless you life in a retirement community, you probably have kids around you too. And even retirees have visiting grandchildren.
Don’t wait. Check out the resource list above. And make a plan.
Who knows? If you prepare your dog for children, you might be more likely to bite than they are.
Your Turn: How does your dog respond to children? Have you done special training or preparation to help your dog cope with kids?
photo credit: Girl with her dog by najarich via photopin cc and Little Boy with pup by rumpleteaser via photopin cc. Click images to learn more about the photographer.