Do your kids speak doggie?

While the rest of the world smiles at, shares and ‘likes’ the plethora of videos and photos of dogs with kids on the Internet, positive dog trainers like myself cringe. In many cases, the child appears to be having the best fun while, if you know what signs to look for, the dogs are clearly uncomfortable at best and at the opposite end of the scale, about to bite as their warning signs have gone unheeded and they have run out of options which with to communicate or protect themselves.

In this second installment from the Modern Pet Dog seminar held on Sydney’s Northern Beaches last month, Louise Colombari from Pittwater Animal Hospital addresses dog and child relationships. Her philosophy is based on five pillars:

  1. Teach the dog – reinforce the behavior you want through positive training methods and puppy school is not the end of their training, it’s a life-long requirement for any dog to keep exercising their body and their brain.
  2. Teach the family – take proactive action to manage interactions between your dog. This involves setting rules such as ‘the dog is not a jungle gym’ that includes principles of no riding, tugging, teasing, grabbing, jumping on, poking, annoying, pestering, provoking or bothering during sleep or meal time. There’s a lot of educational resources available – see below for lots of awesome links for adults and kids to talk about together.
  3. Management – use tools such as baby gates, tethers or crate training the dog to separate and manage the smaller and furrier members of the family. Keep the dog amused with alternatives such as stuffed Kongs or interactive toys. Teach the kids to reward the dog for calm or training really cool tricks instead of rough play.
  4. Deal with problems – learn dog body language as they may be communicating discomfort clearly and ignoring it is not an option as a responsible dog owner. Deal with problems straight away – such as separating them and giving the dog a ‘safe’ area where they can relax without anyone near them. If in doubt, seek a qualified and positive dog trainer really quickly.
  5. Seek help and resources. There’s a lot of free information available online, covered in the next section.

Learn to speak Doggie

Here are some great resources – free by the way – that Louise highlighted as essential reading for any dog or human parent as they advocate a both positive and proactive approach:

  • The Family Dog – has the fabulous video ‘Pat, Pet, Pause’ which features a ‘doggy genie’ that appears to gives kids tips on how to approach a dog and see if they want to interact as well as Dog Stars with its catchy tune that young people will relate to. I speak Doggie is produced to the tune of London Bridge and its message will remain in your head long after you close YouTube.
  • Doggie Drawings – Lili Chin’s posters and doggie drawings are a must-download item (great Christmas stocking filler idea!) as they show dog body language in an easy-to-understand cartoon.
  • The Vet Behaviour Team in Sydney – offer great fact sheets ranging from early to severe stress signs in dogs, including how to read their facial expressions.
  • Mighty Dog Graphics – has free posters and infographics including the ‘Young Person’s Guide to Staying Safe Around Dogs’.
  • Doggone Safe – fabulous links including the ‘Speak Dog’ video, interactive games for kids to play and bite prevention tips. This includes the Doggone Crazy Board Game which ships via Amazon (another Christmas present idea, nudge nudge, wink wink!). It teaches adults and kids how to be safe around dogs – players race around the board earning bones by demonstrating safe behaviours such as ‘be a tree’ and interpreting photos of dogs.
  • 4pawsuniversity – a range of articles including ‘Training Tip Tuesday’ articles
  • Good Dog in a Box – specific resources to help families who have dogs (some you have to purchase)
  • Positively – has a large knowledge repository including a focus on dog bite prevention and children.
  • Family Paws Parent Education – their Dogs & Storks and Dogs & Toddlers programs help parents prepare for the addition of a new baby to the house where there is already a dog living in the house.
  • Animal Behavior Associates – offer a range of articles ranging from behaviour analysis to wellness with Helping Fido Welcome Your Baby designed for expecting or new parents.

Look out for the next installment of the ‘Building Relationships’ theme of the night coming soon. If you want to find out about future events email barbara@goodog.com.au or follow the Modern Pet Dog on Facebook.

Here’s the link to the first article – ‘how to train your tiger, or dog’ in case you missed it