It’s holiday time! There’ll be parties, shindigs and hootenannies; a relative will drink too much, a different relative will eat too much, other relatives will argue and the much smaller relatives will stay up past their bedtime and enjoy unprecedented freedom.
But what about the dog? Whether it’s a dog that’s been in the family for years, a dog visiting from another family or even a new doggy addition, there are some things we all need to remember about those smaller relatives and how they interact with the beloved dog.
Just to be clear, there aren’t enough pages in the world to house everything that could be said on this subject. These are just a few essentials to help everyone enjoy the season!
Don’t let them stick!
Young children are often magnetised to dogs (they are basically furry moving toys). This can be an issue when the dog wants some alone time so set some boundaries about when kids and fur kids can interact and in what way.
On the other hand, since dogs love to spend time with their humans and they understand that good things happen, like extra food ‘appearing’ when children are around, they too can become magnetsised. Beside rewarding calmness around kids, it’s also important to reinforce dogs for walking away. If your dog chooses to walk away from where you and the kids are, reinforce it, it will help your dog to not feel obligated to hang around.
Do something you’ll all enjoy
Get the kids involved in supervised game time with the dog. Babies and young children can enjoy watching the dog play fetch in the backyard. Older kids can be more active in the games by getting the dog to sit or even perform a trick before the toy is thrown again. Remember, if at any point you think the dog has had enough, give them a break.
Providing your dog with a safe place where they can relax by themselves and not be disturbed is vital for their emotional well-being. Crate training can be great for this, but even a quiet room that is off limits to guests and kids is good.
It’s not just a great song, mutual respect is what kids should be building with the dogs in their life. Because, as much as kids can seem like dogs when they are covered in mud and chasing each other in circles, they are very, very different! Dog’s don’t always like what kids like (cuddles, rough housing) and kids don’t always recognise when a dog is not happy. Having kids build empathy is a good start; getting them to ask themselves how the dog might feel about certain things will help them build a respectful relationship where they don’t impose themselves on the dog.
Lay down the law
There are lots of times kids and fur kids can have supervised interactions but with that in mind here are some hard and fast rules about when they can’t - dogs shouldn’t be disturbed when they are eating, sleeping, playing happily by themselves or displaying body language that says they don’t want to interact.
This is the bare minimum; you will need to add more rules depending on your dog’s personality and circumstances. For example, some dogs may not tolerate any interaction from children or have issues in the presence of a particular stimuli and the appropriate steps should be taken to ensure that this is respected.
The right way to say I love you
Help kids to understand they can show a dog they love them by giving treats, playing fun games like fetch or hide and seek and teaching them tricks. Not by giving unwanted affection, screaming at them, staring in their face or invading their personal space.
Dogs and kids can build great friendships and have a great time enjoying each other’s company when they begin to understand each other. As always education is the key and, regardless of how much of your Aunties famous turkey you’ve scoffed, it’s up to you and the other adults to supervise the relationship and steer it in a respectful and fun direction.