Guest Blog for Playground Dad courtesy of:
Tail catcher extraordinaire
I like to chase my own tail. It’s not just something I do. It’s something I live to do… The thrill of the chase. The feeling of satisfaction when I finally clamp onto it and crash to the ground in elation. As a human I wouldn’t expect you to understand. Heck you don’t even have a tail. The thing is, it’s my tail and I have exclusive rights to it. I’m not a big fan of mini-humans grabbing it. You know the kind. Sticky fingers, drool-laden mouths. Don’t get me wrong, I love the little cuddle monkey’s but I don’t appreciate a tail that has the same consistency as wet cotton candy.
Reading your pooch
If a child does manage to get my tail, I put up with it. I know that I can get out of it by glazing the little snot-monsters with licks to the face. Unfortunately, there are some dogs out there that aren’t patient or understanding and even some that are afraid of the lil tykes. I’ve seen my fair share of dogs giving all the warning signs for children to give them space but to no avail. Ears pinned back, crescent moon eyes, front paw lift, licking lips, whining, teeth baring… all signs of anxiety or stress. Even a wagging tail can sometimes be misinterpreted as a happy dog, when in fact it means I am unsure or feel intimidated. It’s all in the wag.
When good dogs do bad things…
Sadly, the vast majority of dog bites occur on family members and on the family property. When a dog bites a child it is a situation that doesn’t end well for canine or kid. The child learns to fear dogs and the dog is usually cast away or euthanized. I don’t blame the kids. Like puppies they just do what comes naturally to them. There are a few simple things that parents can teach both kids and dogs in order to mutually enjoy each others company in a safe way.
You have all the tools you need
I mentioned a few of the warning signs above, but it doesn’t even need to get that far. From watching my mom and dad with their mini-human I see that raising a child takes patience, understanding, and steady nerves. These are all the tools you need to train your own pooch to be happy, healthy and well-mannered. As with children there needs to be a fine balance between affection and discipline.
Rosco’s rulez for kids and dogs
Here five ways to help kids and dogs to coexist safely and happily:
1. No hugs… We dogs don’t interpret hugs the same way you humans do. A paw shake is a great substitute. Alternatively for fido… If a dog rests his chin on you, it’s not a sign of affection. It means ‘I own this’ or ‘I’d like take ownership’.
2. Happy collar grabs… Teach your pooch to happily accept a grab of his or her collar. Many bites or nips come when someone is reaching for their dog.
HOW? Grab collar, reward with treats and praise. This comes in handy in many situations and prevents reactive snapping or avoidance.
3. Take it nice… A dog who doesn’t snatch and grab is less likely to nip a wee hand when taking cookies.
HOW? Offer a cookie, if teeth touch your hand say ‘OUCH’ and slowly move your hand back. Slowly return your hand to present the cookie but this time if dog moves forward, slowly move your hand back. Give the cookie when the dog stays in place and gently accepts the treat. Then praise with “Good dog”.
4. Family feeding fun… Once your pooch knows how to take gently, all family members can get involved in dinner time. Hand feeding is great for bonding and reinforces your role as the supplier of food. The bowl didn’t drive to the store and pay for the kibble so why should it get all the credit. Hand feed a few times a week and combine it with training sessions for optimal results.
5. Workouts for the noggin… A tired dog is a happy dog, as well as a dog that is less likely to be destructive, anxious, or over-excited. I’m not just talking about walking either. Physical exercise is necessary but mental stimulation is just as important. A 10 minute game of hide and seek is fun and expends a lot of energy. In fact I wrote all about it in Rosco’s Dog Blog – Game for a rainy day.
Two peas from a different pod
Kids and dogs share much of the same traits. They both live in the present moment and neither are filtered by societal constraints like farting in public or belching right in the face of a complete stranger. They make great playmates for each other and as your child grows they learn valuable life lessons about caring for another living being.
Watch and learn
Unless you have a talking dog, it’s important to observe your pooch and learn what he or she is trying to tell you with their body language. Acknowledging and responding to your dog’s communication efforts strengthens your bond. It increases the understanding you have between you, making your pooch even more responsive. When you gain your dog’s trust you truly have a best friend for life and one that will be well-mannered in all respects.
Tail waggingly yours,
– Rosco the dog bloggin dog