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TEACHING CHILDREN TO HANDLE DOGS

Let's face it, kids can be rough. Just look at the mangled and matted stuffed animals strewn across your child's bedroom. Introducing a living, fragile, self-protective animal into this environment could be disastrous. So before you bring home a new pet, make sure your children know how to handle a furry family member properly.

Safe Approach

When your child meets a new dog, ask permission first. If the owner presents the dog, your child should approach slowly and extend one hand in a fist with the palm down. During the approach, your child should talk softly to the dog and avoid staring. Dogs may interpret staring as a sign of aggression.

If the dog sniffs your child's outstretched hand and seems friendly, she's giving your little one permission to pet her gently. If the dog looks fearful or growls, leave her alone and try again another time.

Tell your children never to pet a dog who's not part of your family without permission from both the dog's owner and the dog.

Just the Right Touch

Dogs are just so cute! Your children may want to hug and squeeze them. But such intensity can frighten dogs and can be dangerous for smaller dogs.

Instead, explain to your child that dogs love to be stroked on the neck, scratched under the chin and around the ears, and patted on their sides. Also tell your children to avoid patting dogs on their heads since some dogs find this invasive.

Hard to Hold

Young children shouldn't carry puppies around. A puppy can easily squirm out of a child's hands and hurt herself or your child. When your children are older, you can teach them the right way to pick up and hold a dog. Tell children to place their right hand under the dog's chest, cradle her bottom with their left hand and carry her close to your body while you support her feet.

Hey, I'm Eating Here

How would your children like it if someone bothered them while they were eating, sleeping or playing a video game? Dogs need time to themselves just as much as we do. So tell your kids to let their dog eat, sleep and play with her chew toys by herself. And give your dog some privacy by making her sleeping area off-limits to your kids.

Stop Staring at Me

It's fun to have a staring contest with friends and family, but tell your kids to exclude the dog from this game. If a child stares at a dog, the dog may think he is trying to establish dominance and your dog may respond aggressively to show her own dominance.

Child's Play

Dogs don't understand that yelling, running or repetitive actions like swinging are part of your child's play. A dog can get riled up or scared and respond by chasing, jumping or barking at your child. If this happens, tell your child to stand still and stay quiet until the dog calms down and walks away. Then explain that it's better not to play rough when the dog's around.

Don't Fence Me In

Teasing a dog that's confined behind a fence or in a crate can excite or anger her. Nobody likes to be teased. If the dog gets loose, she may take her frustration out on your child. So make sure your children know that teasing animals is against the rules.

Lifelong Friends

Don't let all these potential problems stop you from getting a dog. A child's relationship with his dog can be one of the most rewarding of his life. And dogs enjoy the devoted attention that children happily provide. As long as your dog and your child respect each other, their relationship will blossom.

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