A Childs Best Friend
Children and dogs don't hold grudges. They forgive quickly, trust fully, and give affection freely to those people who share their life. When given opportunity and guidance, a dog and a child can develop a wonderful friendship. A child, with their spontaneous energy and eagerness to run and explore, can become a dog's favorite playmate. A dog, with their faithfulness and devotion, can become a child's confidant, willing to listen to all the plans, aspirations and disappointments of youth. Unfortunately, this friendship is often left undeveloped because a child may be uncertain about how to interact with a dog. They may be worried about sharp puppy teeth and rough puppy play.
To develop a great relationship between a child and a dog, clear boundaries need to be established. Adults and older brothers and sisters can show younger siblings how to connect with their dog. All family members can share in the duties of dog management. Parents can fill the dog's food dish and watch and assist as younger family members tell the dog to sit or down before placing the dish on the floor. The dog quickly learns the child is in control of their food resources, and they must respect the child in order to receive their food. The child learns to set limits on the dog by asking for obedience. Parents must supervise, ready to ensure the dog does not disobey the child by jumping up or grabbing the food dish.
Regular walks are great for the entire family. Walking as a "family pack" allows a child to observe the rules which adult family members place on the dog's behaviour. Dogs are taught to walk without pulling on the leash. When the dog displays poor manners by pulling or barking, the child sees their parent discipline the dog by popping on the leash. In off leash areas, the child sees the parent carefully checking the dog's location and calling them back periodically for a treat or praise. Parents can improve this child-dog connection by having the child call the dog, and then supervise while the child gives the treat or the praise.
Adult or older family members must supervise to ensure a dog is not treating a child as it would another puppy. Dogs must learn quickly that it is wrong to growl, nip or wrestle roughly with young children. Adult family members must be firm and consistent in their discipline. A dog cannot disrespect any family member without consequences. Often a verbal scolding is sufficient to discipline a disrespectful dog, but sometimes a pinch or a firm squeeze on the fur at the top of the dog's neck is needed to let the dog know that a child must be respected. Never ask a young child to discipline a dog. Adult family members are the pack leaders, and the dog will respect the boundaries and behaviours which they insist upon.
With supervision, guidance, and affection, a dog can become a child's best friend!Noel Pepin -- Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists