A spouse, a child and a dog, isn’t that the idea of a perfect family? Yeah, it may be if everyone knows the rules. Having a child and a dog grow up together may be the best thing for both. Your child learns to love and respect animals from a very young age, they become responsible and gentle. Dogs also learn to be gentle around kids. Having them get along with each other is a dream for most parents.
However, it’s not always as easy as you may think. Videos and TV shows will show you how dogs and children instantly bond with each other but the truth is, sometimes it is not as instantaneous. Even if your child and your dog bond with each other, you must enforce some rules to keep your dog and your child safe.
So, here are 16 safety rules for children, dogs and for you. Let’s break it up into 3 segments.
Safety Rules For Children With Dogs
There are some boundaries that you must enforce with your child. Children cannot do certain things with the family dog and they can only do some things with parental supervision. There may be many rules that you set up for your child, but we feel the rules mentioned below are the most crucial.
You Can’t Disturb The Dog When They Are Eating, Sleeping, Pooping Or Peeing
There are certain things that a dog must be allowed to do on their own without any disturbance. Never allow your child to put their hand in the dog bowl. Dogs can take it as a sign of aggression and some may snap at them. Waking up a sleeping dog can startle them and disturbing a dog when they are trying to poop or pee will make the dog very agitated.
A child must never disturb them when they are doing any of the above and if you ever see them trying to put their hand in the bowl or wake them when they are trying to sleep, you must intervene immediately.
Be assertive never aggressive. The child must be able to learn from these lessons not be traumatised by them.
2. No Ear Pulling, Tail Pulling Or Riding Dogs
Children are very curious. They sometimes don’t realise that the dog is a living being and that he/she must be treated with respect. Pulling their ears, tails or riding dogs, particularly old dogs (even if they aren’t putting their full weight) is never okay.
Most dogs are calm with children but sometimes they have enough and if they snap back at your child or get hurt in the process, it won’t be good for your dog or your child.
It may be an innocent habit that your child does but a very reactive dog may sometimes think that your child wants to play and may rough handle them like they would with other dogs. This is not at all safe and your child can get hurt.
3. All Dogs Are Not Friendly
Children who grow up with dogs are sometimes under the impression that all dogs are friendly. As parents, we must teach them that it’s not true. Some dogs are agitated for various reasons (they may be hurt, abused, pregnant or lactating) and if a child approaches them they may snap.
Children must know all the important rules of interacting with a new dog. They must always show their palm to the dog if the dog comes wagging their tail and shows signs of being happy, they can gently pet the dog. If the dog barks or snarls at them, they must calmly walk away.
If they meet a pet dog, children must take permission from the pet owner before touching the dog and if the owner says no, they must respect their wishes.
Children must know what they should do when they are being chased by a dog. Never run, turn the other side and cover your face. Calmly ask your friends to call an adult.
4. Don’t Take Their Toys
Dogs are attached to their toys the same way as children are attached to theirs. It is not okay to take the dogs toys and hide it or refuse to give it back. It may make some dogs aggressive or put them in a playful mood. They may want to play rough and put your child in danger.
Children must know that dogs are very attached to their toys and they must never try to take it from them. If the dog takes your child’s toy, tell your child to alert you, so that you can retrieve the toy from them. Never allow the child to take the toy directly from the dog’s mouth.
5. Don’t Copy Your Parent
As a parent of a child and a dog, there are so many things you have to do to your dog, sometimes in front of your child.
Sometimes you need to put your hand in your dog’s mouth to give them pills or to take out a harmful object. You have to pick your dog up to put them in the car if they are older, calm them when they are hyper or put your hand in their bowl when you are trying to feed them or teach them how to eat from their bowl.
Kids are naturally curious, and they tend to imitate their parents. It’s how they learn. But if a child puts their hand in the dog bowl or in the dog’s mouth. It’s very dangerous.
We need to make them understand that their parents are the experts here. Adults have been doing this for a long time and the dog trusts us to put our hand in their mouth or in the bowl. That’s why they can see the parent doing these things but they should never imitate; even if they are alone with the dog.
If the dog has put something in their mouth, the child must never try to get it out on their own, instead, they should alert their parents.
6. Trick Training Rules
Now, we want to clarify that a child must never feel responsible to teach the family dog anything new. Teaching the family dog rules, and tricks, is the parent’s responsibility but your child can be a part of the process.
We would recommend to only involve children if they are 6 or above or if they can understand rules. Though the above rules are made for their safety, it may feel very restrictive and your child may feel like they can’t interact with the dog.
Trick training allows for a positive environment for both your children and your dog. You can teach them how to give the dog treats and make sure that the child only gives treats after the dog has done the trick or listened to the child.
This is why it’s best to have kids above 6 years of age because they will listen to you and give the dog the treats instead of holding on to the treat and teasing the dog.
Safety Rules For Dogs With Children
While your children have certain rules to follow, your dog too must follow a set of different rules. Some dogs are natural nanny dogs while others need a bit of training.
No Jumping, Snarling Or Biting The Baby
Dogs may jump playfully or play growl and play-bite. That may be okay with other dogs and you but it is not okay around children. You never know when the play session exacerbates to something else which is why it is important to intervene right when you see it.
2. They Can’t Take Things From The Child’s Hands
Children are shorter and their hands are very easy for your dog to reach. So, if they have food or a shiny toy in their hand a dog might feel curious and take it.
This may be an innocent gesture but it’s dangerous. Some children may try to stop the dog from taking food and toys out of their hand and the dog may become a little rough which will hurt the child.
If you see your dog snatching things from their hands you must train them to stop this behaviour immediately.
If your dog is very reactive around kids and they tend to steal food often, consider keeping the dog in a separate baby pen so that the children can eat safely.
3. They Can’t Be Rough Around The Child
Dogs love to play and even if they are around the same height as your child they are stronger. This is why it is very important to teach your dog to be very calm around your child.
Some dogs are naturally good at this. For instance, despite their reputation, Pitbulls love kids and are exceptionally calm around them. Other dogs like Labradors and Golden Retrievers are very gentle with children.
Many dogs need some training. If you have an active dog, you may have to take them out and give them a good exercise before letting them interact with your child. Always reinforce calm behaviour. Dogs are quick to learn and if you keep training them, they’ll know how to behave around your child.
4. No Jumping On The Baby Bed
Every dog is different and different houses have different rules. So, if your dog is exceptionally calm and is great with kids, you may allow them on the baby bed, but for the most part, we would highly recommend you to teach your dog to not jump on the baby bed.
There’s one place that the child should have to themselves. If their bed is a dog-free zone, they can have a safe undisturbed sleep. Dogs may jump up out of curiosity but it may startle the child and the dog may react to sudden movements on the bed. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. Hence, you should make sure the dog knows not to jump on the bed.
Rules For You
Lastly, to make sure your child and your dog are disciplined you must be disciplined. Raising a dog and a child together is not easy, it’s an art and you must have a handy dandy checklist to make sure you are on track.
Training, Walking and Grooming The Dog Is Your Responsibility
Yes, when your child is a little older, you can give them some responsibility for the family dog, but for the most part training, walking groom the dog is your responsibility. If your dog shows any bad behaviour you need to be responsible for it and reinforce good behaviour.
If you have a small child and a reactive dog, you must make sure that your dog is getting adequate exercise and training every day. It’s ideal to have a long play session early in the morning when your child is asleep. This will get all their excess energy out and relax them for the rest of the day.
Your child is welcome to accompany you on long walks as they grow older but it is your responsibility to steer your dog in the right direction.
2. Knowing When To Be The Referee
As we said above, certain behaviours are just not okay. Your dog cannot snarl, show their teeth or play rough with your children and your children can’t hit, punch or push and pull your dog. These behaviours are just not okay because it can escalate into something very serious and someone can get hurt.
So, you must know when to intervene and be assertive. A strict ‘no’ or separating your child and your dog for a short period should keep them safe.
We must never leave it on the child or the dog’s good judgement to know when to stop. They will only take your silence as an invitation to play rougher. That’s why you need to intervene and tell them when something is not okay.
3. Communicating With Your Children On Their Level
Some rules are kept for their safety and if they know why those rules are enforced, they are less likely to try and break them.
Children, especially those as young as 2-3 years, are just learning how to talk. They are most likely to question ‘why’ to anything you tell them to do. In these situations, it is important to respect them instead of saying something like, ‘because I said so’ or ‘because I’m the parent and I know better’. Tell them that they can hurt themselves if they break these rules.
Children must know that these rules are enforced for their safety and not as a punishment.
4. Assertion Is Not The Same As Aggression
Remember, we are trying to reprimand the behaviour, not the child or the dog. Raising your voice or giving either the child or the dog a severe punishment may traumatize them and cause them to challenge the rules.
We are trying to solve a problem and aggression will exacerbate it.
Teach your child and your dog that no matter what they do, you will always love them. You will reprimand their behaviour but you will never withhold love to teach them something.
5. Love Your Dog And Your Child
Love is a powerful tool. It can break barriers and end wars. Love. So let’s start and end things with love. Loving your child and your dog teaches them self respect. Children who are loved are less likely to put themselves in danger.
If you had your child after you got your dog, you must not love your dog less or more. Your love for them should be the same. Yes, you may be a little busy with your child but you should never neglect your dog.
The same goes for your child. If you got your dog after you had a baby, don’t shift all your focus on your dog. Yes, a little puppy needs a lot of attention but so does your child. A balance is very important when it comes to loving your child and your dog and you must make sure to maintain that balance.
6. Knowing When To Ask For Help
Raising a child and a dog is not easy. Now, with full-time jobs and family responsibilities, we just can’t do it all. At a time like this, it is perfectly normal to understand your limitations and ask for help.
It can be help from other family members or help from professional nannies, dog walkers or trainers. You can temporarily hire someone to reduce some of that load off of you.
When you aren’t stressed and in a better mood you can be a better parent to your dog and your child. That’s when you are effectively able to enforce all the rules mentioned above.