Sarah Rosen, left, and sister Ellie get Coco and Pepper ready for a ride.
Column: Doggie Dialogues
The grandkids are coming! The grandkids are coming!
By Doris Dressler
“Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.”
~Rodgers and Hammerstein, Getting to know you
After our long, hot summer, it’s hard to believe the holidays are right around the corner. For many of us, that means the grandkids are coming!
Are you nervous about introducing—or reintroducing—your holiday visitors to your four-legged companion? Never fear; here are a few helpful hints to make that introduction go more smoothly.
Kay Bechtel’s grandchildren read to Rascal, a 7-month-old
Prepare your dog to be around children
Before your grandchildren arrive, start to plan activities that might involve a change in routine for your dog. Implement these changes before the grandchildren arrive so the dog does not associate the changes with the grandchildren.
+ If you live in a home with stairs, teach your dog to wait or go up or down the stairs ahead of you, so you or a child can get up or down the stairs without the dog knocking you over.
+ Be sure your dog is comfortable being touched and hugged. Touch his feet, ears and tail and verbally praise your dog and reward with a high-value treat.
+ If your dog guards his food bowl, start feeding him in a crate or closed room.
+ Firm up some of your dog’s basic obedience cues, including “leave it,” “drop it,” “sit,” “down,” “stay” and “come.”
+ Teach your dog to take treats nicely. The safest way to give your dog a treat is with the treat in the palm of your hand, with the palm facing up, below the dog’s mouth.
+ Give your dog a safe place like a crate or room, if he needs a break from the kids.
Zara, an 8-month-old golden retriever, rests after a walk with
Prepare your child to be around dogs
All children should be taught to never touch or approach a dog they do not know. Even if your child knows the dog, he should always ask permission from the dog owner before petting the dog.
+ Children should never stare down a dog or put their faces close to a dog’s face.
+ Teasing, pinching, poking, wrestling, straddling, riding or laying on top of the dog should be discouraged.
+ Many dogs do not like being hugged or patted on top of their heads. Teach your children to hold their hand out low, palm up to allow the dog to sniff their hand. They can then scratch the dog’s chin or stroke the side of the dog’s head.
+ Be cautious approaching a dog from behind, so you don’t startle him.
+ Running and screaming can trigger arousal behavior in dogs. Playing chase should be discouraged; it’s simply too easy for your child to fall or for your dog to accidentally knock your child over.
+ Set your dog up for success by not allowing young children to wander through the house while carrying food.
+ Children should not be allowed to touch your dog while he is eating, drinking or sleeping.
+ Under no circumstances should a young child take away a bone or toy from a dog. The supervising adult should do so.
Children under 7 or 8 should never be left unsupervised with a dog, not even for a minute. “Any dog may bite if it feels threatened, if it’s put into an unfamiliar situation, if it’s out of control, or if it’s scared,” said American Veterinary Medical Association President Roger Mahr, DVM. “The only known cures for dog bites are training, knowledge and caution.”
While the majority of dogs will tolerate the behaviors mentioned above, it is important to remember that any dog is capable of biting. It’s better to err on the side of caution.
Making the introduction
Even if your dog has been around children, or the children have been around other dogs, take the time to carefully plan the introduction. A dog not used to children may become overly excited or fearful. A dog used to children may still be apprehensive when meeting new little ones.
+ Exercise your dog before visitors arrive. A tired dog is a good dog!
+ If your dog is a jumper or if the children are nervous around dogs, leash your dog to prevent him from accidentally knocking over a little one.
+ Don’t crowd the dog; have visitors approach calmly and greet one at a time.
+ Have treats handy and have your visitors ask your dog to sit and then reward with a treat. This helps your dog learn visitors are good.
If your dog is nervous or fearful, you may want to crate your dog or put him in another room until your visitors are settled in. Ask your visitors to sit (this makes them appear smaller and less scary), not make eye contact and simply ignore the dog. Allow the dog to approach as he feels comfortable.
A multiple-dog household can be a bit more challenging. Be sure your dogs are calm before introducing them to your visitors. You may want to consider crating them or keeping them in a safe area and bringing them out, one at a time, after your guests have settled in.
If your dog is simply not a social butterfly, don’t force an introduction. Keep your dog safely in another room or consider boarding him for a few days.
Happy training and have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.
Doris Dressler is a CPDT-KA (certified professional dog trainer, knowledge assessed) with over 17 years’ experience training service dogs and family pet dogs. She also volunteers training rescued dogs at Big Canoe Animal Rescue.
After a day of company and best behavior, both child and dog