Wednesday, June 07, 2017

3 Ways to Ensure that Your New Dog is Safe for the Kids

Dogs are much more than just household pets. Having a dog is a commitment. You can’t just introduce some random dog to the family and expect everything to fall into place, especially if you have children. If the new dog doesn’t get along with the kids, your furry new family member could very easily turn into a safety risk. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to prevent this from happening. 

Adopt a Pup Instead of an Adult Dog for Easier Training 

Welcoming a puppy into your home instead of an adult dog in its peak is easily the best way to ensure your children’s safety. Apart from the fact that they’re small and relatively harmless, domestic puppies less than 16 weeks old are in a crucial stage of mental and emotional development. This is when they’re just beginning to get accustomed to the world around them, including the adults and children in the family or pack that they now belong to. 

Who or what the puppy meets during this formative period is likely to stick with it throughout adulthood. That’s why it’s extremely important to introduce them to the children as well as to the rest of the family while they’re young. The more your kids socialize with the puppy during this early period in its life, the more it will treat the kids as part of its pack. 

Canine experts and trainers swear by the effectivity of this early socialization period in ensuring the safety of children as well as the healthy development of the pup. If a puppy is raised and socialized around children correctly, it will instinctively know how to be gentle with small, young humans, even ones outside its family. 

Some even say that socializing a puppy is more important than picking breeds that are known to be ‘kid-friendly’. As experts will tell you, canine safety and childproofing is more about training than the actual breed of the dog. Even feared breeds like the doberman or the pit bull can learn to be sweethearts when it comes to kids and other family members, you just have to start ‘em young and train ‘em right. 

Commit to Canine Training for Discipline and Socialization

While some dogs can be averse to training and discipline, most of them are literally born and bred to be trained - that’s what domesticated means. The dogs that you see now, especially the puppies, are the latest products of generations upon generations of dogs that have been tamed and trained for human companionship. 

Being in a pack led by humans has literally been in their DNA ever since the first wolves allowed themselves to be tamed by humans. But as you already know, this doesn’t mean that all dogs are automatically childproof. It just means that they can be highly receptive to the proper training, whatever domestic breed they may be. 

So if your new dog is not a puppy that can be easily molded and safely socialized, don’t worry. You can teach an old dog new tricks. Even those who are well past the first formative weeks can still be socialized and trained. And the best way to start training both pups and adult dogs are through basic commands and child-friendly habits. 

‘Sit’ and ‘down’ are easy enough for first-time trainees to follow. Reward them with treats as well as love and affection whenever they properly follow commands; this is what’s known as positive reinforcement. 

On the other hand, you can also use negative reinforcement, which, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t need to involve hitting or any other painful punishment. Simply distancing yourself from or ignoring the dog can be a highly effective form of negative reinforcement. 

For instance, when training your dog to stop jumping up on you when it’s excited or when you’ve just come home after work, you can firmly say ‘stop’, and when it insists on jumping, simply walk back out the door. Repeat this until it learns to keep all four legs on the ground when greeting you or any other new person. 

While an excited and jumpy dog is undoubtedly adorable, this type of behavior can be problematic when it comes to children who could be accidentally injured and traumatized by an overly-friendly dog. So train your dog and commit to teaching it some discipline; it’s the only way to ensure that it’s safe to be with children. 

Pick a Dog with a Good Personality Instead of a ‘Good Breed’ 

If you have no choice but to get an adult dog, it could be easier for you if you pick one from a breed that’s considered by trainers to be child-friendly. This includes dog breeds like the boxer, labrador, golden retriever, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. While training is more important than lineage, dog breeds can often determine how affectionate and non-violent a particular dog can be. 

At the same time, don’t forget that all dogs are basically domesticated wolves. All of them, from the smallest to the biggest breeds, have strong jaws and predatory instincts. And while some domestic breeds are known to be child-friendly, it’s still better to observe their actual training and personality. 

Think of a dog’s breed as a template of its potential. It’s predisposed to certain behaviors, but ultimately, experience, training, and the dog’s personality itself will determine how it follows and strays from that template. Just as a big, muscled pit bull can be extremely gentle with infants, so can a toy spaniel be aggressively mean towards humans closer to its size - it’s all about training, experience, and personality. 

BONUS TIP: Be Ready to Clean Up After the Dog 

Your behavior towards the new dog will greatly influence how well it socializes with your family. In short, you need to be as patient and as friendly with the new dog as you can. This means being ready for any messes that your furry new baby is bound to make. 

Toilet training and basic household discipline is not that easy to instill, especially in curious and excited puppies. Be ready to clean up the carpet, remove new stains, fix tooth marks on wooden furniture, and scoop up some poop. It all comes with the territory.

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