Adopting or acquiring a Dog so that a child can grow by his side is a very good idea for many reasons known to many of us. Not only do they end up being the best friends but caring for a dog helps the children to be aware and develop such important values, among others, as responsibility and patience, as we wrote in our post: ‘My puppy is already at home! then Legal issues and Veterinary‘
But having a dog at home with young children leads us to take into consideration many factors that need to be controlled and taken into account. While it is true that children mature at different speeds and ages, as an adult you can get an idea of when the child is prepared to take on certain responsibilities and duties to care for his furry friend. According to Kay Cox (Arizona, USA), an animal psychologist and teacher, it is extremely important to teach and educate both the child and the dog how they should interact with each other.
Kay Cox has developed a series of recommendations based on different age ranges of the child to try to describe the responsibilities and things to keep in mind between children and dogs. In any case each child will be a different case and we must always be aware.
Very important: keep in mind that even with the best dogs, better trained and accustomed to children can become aggressive at any given time and under certain circumstances. Therefore, we will never leave children and dogs alone. An adult should always be present. This maxim applies both to dogs and to any animal in general.
Obviously a newborn baby cannot care for a dog, but we must work to make the baby’s arrival at home as normal as possible and make the dog feel as part of this important change. The dog should not feel relegated by the new situation. Kay Cox suggests these steps:
- Before the baby comes home, he begins to spend exclusive time doing things related to the baby. You have to begin to understand that there is moment when you cannot watch the dog.
- When the baby arrives, let them know each other carefully. No jealousy. A jealous or very excited dog can be hostile. That is why it is very important to be calm and attentive to any reaction of the dog.
- When the dog reacts positively give him a lot of praise. He deserves it! 🙂
- Be sure to pay attention to your dog. In the end he’s also your ‘hairy son’ and needs your attention.
- When they come home to see the baby, Cox recommends giving prizes and making him feel part of the situation. Do not be displaced at any time.
Up to three years
Before we know it, toddlers begin to walk on their own, but they still do not control their arm and leg movements. You must control their movements and ensure that they are always careful and respectful towards the dog. The child should always respect the dog and it is our responsibility to watch and work for it.
On the other hand, the dog should be accustomed to touching their toys and bowls of food and water, and also that the children ‘invade’ their bed like another game. Although children should not touch bowls, for hygienic reasons, it is almost impossible to prevent them from doing so. It does not matter how many times you tell the children not to do it. They will end up doing it. The kids are very fast!
Always be very gentle with the dog and the child and use reassuring words such as ‘slowly’, ‘soft’ in the form of whispers to reassure the situation. Dogs learn by imitation.
Again: never leave a child alone with an animal, or while you leave room, Never. Even if your Dog is docile and good.
From three to six years
From the age of three, the previous work done until then should have sought a powerful bond between child and dog. Your child can start participating in certain dog care tasks. Children can help you put food, water, brush the dog like a game, always under supervision. Do not expect a child at that age to remember that the dog has to eat and drink every day and should play with it. But if we begin to make him participate in the necessary tasks, we will foster in the child the value of responsibility from very early ages.
By age six, children should be actively involved in dog maintenance. Put him to eat and drink, clean bowls when necessary, etc… Let them begin to be aware that having a dog means performing tasks and responsibility.
And we finish with: While it is true that to carry out everything described above it is necessary to invest time and effort on the part of all, you will see that the reward you will get will be priceless. The bond that boy and dog will establish will be incredible. And it will be one of the best things you can do to make your human son and your son a dog, and therefore, the whole family in general, you are even happier if it fits. In addition you will be encouraging in the child the respect and love for the animals, to make of your son the best possible human being.