Playful bonding with Kids & K9s

Growing up with a dog in the family is one of the most enjoyable and valuable experiences for a child. Here are a few games and activities to engage your child and your pooch.

Nivedita With Caeser

Nivedita With Caeser

These days, thanks to the growing dependence on gadgets and related technology, children get hooked on to them from a very early age. Parents have been exploring other options to keep their children occupied and teach them valuable life’s lessons. Getting a pet home is one of the best ways to teach children the meaning of unconditional love, mutual respect, compassion and responsibility. Most dogs bond very well with children and their relationship is magical to experience.

 

Nothing like play…
Almost all dogs were once bred to perform ‘jobs’. However, our pet dogs do not get any opportunity to work like their ancestors did. As a result, due to the sedentary lifestyle, dogs start getting destructive and ‘naughty’ due to boredom, pent up energy and lack of routine. Here are a few activities that will involve children in various activities with your dog, especially play. Play is a great way for dogs and kids to exercise both physically and mentally. This will not only help your dog find a sense of accomplishment but also help children understand your dog better and develop a healthy relationship with Fido.

 

Games and activities
Retrieve: Most dogs love to chase toys and other small moving objects. Teach them to pick them up and return it to you on cue. Once the dog learns this, make the child throw the toy for him. Let the child praise the dog every time he picks and returns the toy and reward him with tasty treats. This helps the dog to look up to the child for guidance and helps establish a structure to playtime.
Hide and seek: Scavenging for food was primarily one of the most important jobs for the dogs in the wild. Finding food is extremely rewarding for them. Hide treats around the dog and make him find them on cue. Slowly move towards the hiding objects or dog toys. You can also ask children to hide and call out to the dog to find them. This will also help the dog to build a strong recall with your kids. When the dog ‘finds’ your kid, ask her to praise and reward the dog.
Dog puzzles, homemade toys/treats and chew toys: Help your child make toys and create puzzles for your dog. Hiding treats in crumpled newspaper, stuffing kibble in an open water bottle, filling an old sock with treats and tying up the end, etc will help your dog work for his treats harder and keep him occupied. Kids can also help in making homemade treats. Bake dog-friendly cookies or just mix half a banana, honey and yogurt and freeze them in ice trays. Dogs love them and it is so much fun for the kids to make such treats. In addition to scavenging for food, dogs love to chew. Let your kid offer chewies to the dog after short training sessions. Try offering a full dried coconut to your dog and watch her rip the fibres off. Great toy for heavy chewers!
Teaching dog tricks: Dogs love to work for their food and kids love to interact with dogs. Teaching dogs to perform tricks combines these two aspects beautifully. Always work at the dog’s pace and use gentle methods that use positive reinforcement as the primary technique. Simple tricks like ‘Give paw’ ‘Roll over’, ‘Play dead’, ‘Crawl’, etc are very popular with children.
Tug of war: Tug of war is a great game to play with shy or sensitive dogs. It builds their confidence and helps them to trust children through a fun game. A few tips to play this game safely:

  • Teach your dog to ‘leave’ and ‘drop’ on cue before playing tug.
  • In case your pooch gets very excited, calmly drop the toys and walk away. Do not chase him or try to snatch the toy. Resume once he is calmer.
  • Do not attempt to win the game all the time. Let your dog take the toy a few times.
  • Always praise the dog for good behaviour.

Walking with your dog: Take your kids along for walks with your dog. Dogs are social animals and love doing everything together with their family or ‘pack’. Walking is one of the most important life’s rewards for your dog and kids love it too.
Swimming: Most dogs enjoy swimming and playing retrieve in water. Find out dog friendly pools in your city or drive down to a natural lake and let them enjoy some splashy fun. This is a great activity during summer vacations.
Take a vacation with your dog or visit the beach or park: Visiting and exploring new environments is a great psychological exercise for Fido and helps him to brush up on his social skills too. Find out pet friendly resorts where you can camp with your furry friend. You can play fetch at the park; hide toys in the sand and make Fido dig it up or just enjoy the waves at the beach. If you encounter stray animals or other pet dogs, do not force your dog to interact with them. Give her the time and space to make a decision to whether meet the other dog at all.
Obstacle course: Have you watched canine agility trials? Always wondered if your dog can do it? Of course she can! Start with teaching her to crawl under a chair, jump over a pile of books or tunnel through a large open empty cardboard carton. You can use your terrace or space to create dog-friendly obstacles and have fun as both you and your dog complete the obstacle course. Use high value treats to motivate your dog to do the same with your kids.

 

Some tips to help your dog and kid bond positively

  • Train the kid: Introduce kids to dogs very carefully. Training is not only for your dog, children also need to understand dog’s body language and behave accordingly. Teach them to understand to recognise if the dog is uncomfortable or too excited and when play has to stop.
  • Keep these in mind: Be mindful of the dog’s age, breed, health condition and temperament while choosing toys and games. Work with the dog’s pace and find out activities that he really likes. For example, most Labradors love swimming but our INDogs may not. You might have to play hide and seek or teach tricks with the latter. Also, do not over tire your dog. Training should be fun!
  • Be cautious….always: No matter how well behaved our dog is, always monitor all interactions with your child. Too much excitement during play, accidentally hurting or inappropriate touch may force the dog to get defensive. It is always better to be over cautious around children.
  • Keep it short and sweet: No matter how much your dog likes his toys, do not let him obsess over them. Keep training and play sessions short and stop before he gets bored.
  • Keeping them indoors: Most of these games can be played indoors and can be used to engage the dogs during monsoon or festive time.

Creating a routine for your dog, shuffling between the above activities and involving all the family members in them will help in channelising her energy towards constructive learning and making your dog’s life more fun. Happy playing!

 

(Nivedita Kumar is canine behaviour consultant and founder of Confident Dog (www.confidentdogs.com), Bengaluru).

Social and health benefits of pet interaction

Scientific evidence is increasingly showing that pets are good for people. UK and international research demonstrates that interaction with pet can reduce visits to doctor, enhance social interactions, enrich quality of life for elderly people, perform vital role in child development and so on. Let’s see how does it happen.

Pets also improve chances of survival after life-threatening illness, reduce blood pressure and perceived levels of stress, provide companionship and enhance social interactions, modify human behaviour promoting responses from those who are withdrawn, aggressive or mentally ill, prevent re-offending in juvenile prisoners and positively affect school attendance rates.
Kids with pets take fewer sick days
A study examining 256 children (aged five to eleven years) in three schools in England and Scotland revealed that children from families with pets have significantly better school attendance due to lower levels of absenteeism through illness than those from families without pets. Absenteeism through illness was significantly less among children with pets. Children with pets attended school for an additional three weeks of school compared to children without pets (aged five to seven years).
Keeps the doctor away
A large-scale survey of more than 11,000 Australians, Chinese and Germans proved that pet parents enjoy better health than non-pet parents. Over a five year period, pet parents made 15 – 20 percent fewer annual visits to the doctor than non pet-parents.Pets can help reduce the risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis A number of studies have shown that exposure to cats and/ or dogs in the first year of life can reduce subsequent risks of allergic sensitisation to multiple allergens during childhood, including non-pet allergens. Research also shows that exposure to pets is associated with a significantly reduced risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis. Pets benefit cancer patients Pets can play a role for people who are undergoing stress. In a study which looked at women between 50-60 years of age recovering from breast cancer, 87 percent of these subjects reported that their pets filled at least one important role in their social support and 43 percent said that their pets fulfill over 10 important support functions – being cared for, tactile comfort, being able to express their feelings and still feeling included socially – e.g. when taking the dog for a walk.
Preventing/recovering from illness
Research from the University of New York found that men who had pets had lower resting heart rates and blood pressure – indicating that pet parenting can bring improvements to all aspects of the pet parent’s life.
Helping widowers cope with stress
In this study, pet parents at three months after bereavement showed fewer physical symptoms, such as crying, than non-pet owners. Pet parents often confided in their pets to help release painful feelings, at times when sharing these feelings with other people were felt to be socially uncomfortable.
Child development
Pets perform a vital role in child development. A study has explored children’s perceptions of the social support gained from relationships with their pets and with people – looking at who they would turn to first in certain situations. Pets featured prominently in children’s selections, providing comfort, companionship and a confidante in a similar manner to humans.
A huge 90 percent of children regard their dog as an unconditional friend and listener. Pet dogs have a stabilising and therapeutic effect – both from a child’s perspective and a mother’s point of view.
It is well-known fact that children are fascinated by animals. This interest can help facilitate learning and have a positive effect on child development. Many school communities have introduced pets in a number of imaginative and practical ways. Pet clubs, pet assemblies or pet days can help nurture a sense of reverence for life, give children a sense of responsibility and provide a fun route into many curriculum areas.
Positive influence of dogs on children in divorce crises
In the first year after a parental divorce, children with a dog were more socially integrated and less aggressive. The reasons are clear – dogs represent a constant positive emotional feeling.
Animal assisted rehabilitation
Results captured from three diverse Californian juvenile institutions have proven ‘at-risk’ teens gain more psycho-social skills (anger management, emotional self-control, parenting skills, etc) through guided human-animal interaction than from years in a classroom.
Pets prevent prisoners reoffending
The therapeutic power of dog interaction was highlighted by the results of Project Pooch (Positive Opportunities, Obvious Change, With Hounds), showing that 100 percent of teenage offenders following a dog therapy programme did not return to the correctional system. Such results provide promising outcomes for the ability of dogs to teach troubled youth responsibility, patience, compassion and a positive work ethic.

Yash and Krisha Shewani with Tyson

Pooches shape your kid’s personality

Dogs and children are an amazing combination – four paws and two tiny feet make the world so beautiful with their crazy antics and host of memories to cherish. In the process, kids learn a lot of new things, which make a better individual. To find what kids learnt from their precious paws, we spoke to children with pets in Pune and here’s what they shared.

Teaching compassion…

Yash and Krisha Shewani with Tyson

Yash and Krisha Shewani with Tyson

Liana and Kaylan Fernandes are younger to their pet Dusty, who is an Indian mix breed. “Well, we don’t just like him, we love him. He came along before we were born and so we have grown up with him and consider him a brother. We cannot do without him for a day. No matter what, he has always been there for us, cheered us up and kept us company and we have done the same for him as well. The first thing we do when we come home is to look for Dusty. We share the same room; while we sleep on the bed…he sleeps on the bean bag next to the bed,” they shared.

“Dusty has taught us how to love animals, especially dogs. We have learnt how dogs live and behave. All animals are our friends and we must take care of them,” they added. As a matter of fact, Liana wants to become a vet and take care of pets in future.

Neha Godambe and Maya, her Havanese pooch, make quite a pair. “It is said that a dog is the man’s best friend, and indeed it is true! She is considered as a part of the family and she has changed my life. Every day, I wait for the school to end and rush back home as seeing a wagging tail greeting me at the door makes me immensely happy,” she said. And Maya has taught her compassion and loyalty. “Besides, never ending love and carefree nature are the most important qualities that we can learn from our pets,” she added.

Being responsible…

Yash and Krisha Shewani, share their lives with Tyson – a Boxer, have different reasons for liking him. While, Yash feels safe when Tyson is around him and adores him for his playfulness as he is the best fielder he could get for cricket; Krisha loves Tyson because he is faithful, loyal, trustworthy, affectionate ….eventually a part of her family. Both of them have learnt the same thing from Tyson – responsibility…. that came with feeding him on time, walking him at his timings, and bathing him on Sundays. “We have also learned to love and respect animals through Tyson,” they added.]

Unconditional love…

Saee Risbood is the cute pet parent of even sweeter Lab called Snowy. “Snowy is very beautiful. She always listens to me. She is loving, caring and protects me. She plays hide and seek with me. What I learnt from Snowy is loving everyone in the family, even if they scold you sometimes. Also I learnt to obey instructions,” she answered sweetly.

Nikita Borges loves her Cocker Spaniel named Scamper and said, “His love knows no bounds and he is what any person should strive to be. He taught me that it is possible to love someone more than life, cherish what one has and to take joy in simpler things.”]

Buneshte Hakhamaneshy is a lucky chap. He is blessed with a family of dogs – Prince (Great Dane), Buddy (Great Dane), Coco (Labrador), Angel (Doberman), Lilo (Great Dane +Lab mixed), Dazey (Neopolitan Mastiff), Sugar (Labrador), Joey (Dachshund) and Pixie (Dachshund). Asked why he loves his dogs, came a quick reply, “Because no matter how long it is, whenever I go back, they love me just as much! They have made me realise that love is truly unconditional and it is possible to love everyone. Besides, with them around, we never have to worry about rats and snakes attacking us.”

Good behaviour at all times…

Apurva Shirgonkar loves the innocent eyes of her Pug named Rio. “His innocent eyes always please me, no matter what mood I am in. He’s always a good company when no one is around and whenever I come back home, he always greets me with the same excitement,” she told. And Apurva has learnt a few things from Rio as well. “He has taught me to behave politely and affectionately, irrespective of the conditions and circumstances,” she added.

Not just playmate…

Janhavi Gadgil is blessed with a Beagle named Toffy. “I always wanted to have a pet. Even though I like all sorts of animals, dogs are my favourite. We got Toffy just two months back and it was a huge surprise for me. She is naughty, playful and most important of all, absolutely cute! When she becomes naughty, it becomes almost impossible to stop her as she makes an extremely innocent and cute face when we catch her red handed!”

“Toffy has brought a lot of joy into our life. We are going to train her as a therapy dog as my younger brother is a special child. So, Toffy will be a great help when her training as a therapy dog is complete. It is also a great fun time – learning new facts and tactics of training dogs. I and my brother do not even realise how time flies when we play with her. It is more tempting to play with her than watching TV, etc! With her long, floppy ears, Toffy is a very cute dog. She is also very adorable. She has helped us to follow the healthy regime of ‘Early to bed, early to rise’. She wakes us up in the early morning at 5:30 am and so we must go to sleep at 9:30 pm and the credit goes to Toffy!” she said.

What’s more? “She has also made me understand that we must be responsible. Having a dog is like having a child, a new member in the family and we have to do our best to nurture this relationship. I love Toffy a lot because she loves all of us unconditionally. She is the most wonderful dog I have ever seen,” added Janhavi.

Love has no language…

Sonia Athalye loves her mixed breed pooch Erro as she loves her and her family unconditionally and can always bring a smile to her face. “My dog has taught me that love doesn’t have a language,” she added.

Whew! Our children are actually much more mature than we thought them to be…! So, if you are planning to bring home a pooch but are not sure whether it would be a right thing to do with your child around…take the plunge…you will never regret it!

(With inputs from Neeta Godambe of It’s Pawssible and Shalaka Mundada of PetSitters, Pune’s premier dog luxury resort. Neeta is a certified canine trainer & behaviourist and a dog agility trainer while Shalaka has done a Certified course in Kennel Management from Canines Can Care and a Certified Canine Behaviourist under John Rogerson, UK.)

Children and dog

Pawfect twosome!

There are many benefits to the relationship between puppies and children. Here are tips that will help make that relationship memorable and lasting.

Watchpoints: young children and puppies

Veterinarians often advise parents to wait until their children are between seven and nine before having a puppy join the family. But this is not always realistic and, with supervision, smaller children and puppies can live happily together.

Supervision is important for many reasons. Toddlers may think that puppies are toys who enjoy having their tails pulled, and puppies may mistake toddlers for littermates, and be rougher with them as a result. Children and puppies may decide it’s a good idea to try each other’s food; because of this, it’s important to keep dog food out of reach of babies and toddlers. Some types of puppy food and treats could lodge in a child’s throat, and a baby or toddler might cause a puppy to be ill by feeding him the wrong kinds of food, or too much food.

How puppies benefit children

As children become older, they can take some of the responsibility for the puppy’s care, as long as an adult supervises. Many parents bring a puppy into the family to teach their child responsibility. But it’s important to remember that children generally have short attention spans, and that the parent is responsible for the puppy’s care.

A puppy can teach a child many lessons. While learning about the importance of brushing their puppy’s teeth, for example, a child may understand why it’s important for them to brush their teeth and practice proper grooming. Puppies love unconditionally and children who are lonely, or have high demands placed on them, often find that a puppy provides a non-judgmental friend and relieves stress. And, because puppies communicate differently than humans, they teach children to be aware of body language and non-verbal communication. This helps to instill compassion and sensitivity in children.

Children and Dog

Dog safety tips for kids

Dogs are not always in the mood for play or interaction. There is a time and a place for play, petting or just sitting quietly and at other times the dog just wants to be left alone. Dogs communicate with body language and kids and parents can learn to read these subtle signs so that they know when the dog is asking to be left alone.

Most dogs are extremely tolerant, but if a dog is pushed too far by unwanted attention from kids or feels that the child is threatening him is some way he may feel he has no choice but to growl or snap.

A dog who licks his chops, yawns, suddenly begins to scratch or bite at himself, turns his head away, gets up and leaves or looks at you or the child with a half moon of white showing in his eye is telling you that he is anxious, unhappy and has had enough. These signs will precede the more well-recognised signs of a dog who is warning by growling, snarling, barking or snapping. Teach kids to recognise the signs of a happy dog (panting and wagging his tail) compared to a dog who is anxious or busy with something else (mouth closed and the other signs listed previously). Teach them to interact only with happy dogs and to leave a dog alone who is busy with something else or is showing signs of anxiety.

Safety tips

Here are some other tips from Dog gone Safe to help parents and pet parents keep kids safe around dogs:

The three most important things to teach your kids

  • Dogs don’t like hugs and kisses – Teach your kids not to hug or kiss a dog on the face. Hugging the family dog or face-to-face contact are common causes of bites to the face. Instead, teach kids to scratch the dog on the chest or the side of the neck.
  • Be a tree if a strange dog approaches – Teach kids to stand still, like a tree. Trees are boring and the dog will eventually go away. This works for strange dogs and anytime the family dog gets too frisky or becomes aggressive.
  • Never tease a dog – and never disturb a dog who’s sleeping, eating or protecting something.

The two most important things parents can do

    Supervise – Don’t assume your dog is good with kids. If a toddler must interact with your dog, you should have your hands on the dog too. Even if your dog is great with kids and has never bitten – why take a chance?

  • Train the dog – Take your dog to obedience classes where positive-reinforcement is used. Never pin, shake, choke, hold the dog down or roll the dog over to teach him a lesson. Dogs treated this way are likely to turn their aggression on weaker family members. Involve older children in training the family dog while supervising. Don’t allow children to punish the dog. Condition the dog to enjoy the presence and actions of children using positive experiences.

The three most important things pet parents can do

    Spay or neuter your dog – Neutered pets are calm, healthier and less likely to be aggressive. Neutering prevents unwanted dogs who may end up in shelters or in less than ideal conditions where they may grow up to be poorly socialised or aggressive.

  • Condition your dog for the world – Give your puppy lots of new positive experiences. Train using positive methods such as clicker training.
  • Supervise your dog – Supervise your dog at all times around children. Do not allow children to hug and kiss the dog. If visiting children are bothering your dog, put the dog away or send the children home.

Safe games for kids and dogs

Showing your children how to interact safely, playfully and positively with your puppy or dog not only strengthens the bond between them, but also enhances the training process by teaching the dog to respond to commands. Here are some fun and simple training games your children and dog can enjoy together.

Hide and seek: This activity is a hit with both two- and four-footed family members. Have one child distract the dog, while the other hides and calls for him. At first, instruct your kids to hide in easy places so the dog can’t go wrong. When the hider is found, he gives the dog a treat. Once the dog gets the hang of the game, the hider can make it more challenging by going out of sight or into another room while the other child encourages the dog to “go find Jordan!” This game exercises the dog and is also mentally stimulating.

Fetch: This is another good game that gives the dog exercise and is fun for kids. It is important, however, that the dog is taught to give back the fetched object and to step back and wait for the next throw. If the dog tries to engage in a game of tug of war, or refuses to give up the object, the kids should end the game and ignore the dog for awhile. “Any game that pits the strength or speed of the dog against those of the child could lead to over-excitement and even a biting accident,” says canine behaviour consultant Teresa Lewin of Milton K9 Obedience in Milton. “Adult supervision and proper training are essential.”

Stay inside the rope: Clicker training is the best way for kids to get involved with training, and this game gives them a good opportunity to try it. Place a circle of rope on the floor and give each child a clicker and some small dog treats (the kids can make a clicking sound with their tongues if no clickers are available). Toss a treat into the centre of the circle to get started. When the dog has eaten the treat, click before she steps outside the rope and toss another treat into the circle. The goal is to click and reward as often as possible while the dog has all four paws inside the rope circle. Once the dog has the idea that the place to be is inside the rope, the children can start moving around the room, still clicking and tossing treats into the circle. Play this in various locations and eventually the dog will learn to go and lie within the rope. You can then take the rope into any situation where you need to establish a boundary for the dog.

Keep it positive: Variations on this method can be used to teach the dog to prefer a certain room in the house, lie on a mat or in a crate, shake a paw, jump over a stick or just about anything else you and your kids can think up. Just remember to teach your kids never to scold or use physical force. The word ‘No’ is never used, and there is no need to try to ‘dominate’ the dog. If the dog does the wrong thing, the kids ignore him; if he responds correctly, he receives a treat reward.

Dogs and kids can be great together. It is the parent’s and pet parent’s responsibility to ensure that the needs of both are met and that happy interactions are the norm between kids and dogs.

(Joan Orr and Teresa Lewin are co-founders of Doggone Safe, a non-profit organisation dedicated to dog bite prevention through education and dog bite victim support (www.doggonesafe.com). They are also the creators of the Doggone Crazy! board game, Clicker Puppy dog training DVD, the Be a Tree teacher kit and several online courses (www.doggonecrazy.ca)).

Children and Dog

Nurturing a bond of love…

A pet pooch can be your child’s best friend but compassion and respect for household pets is an important personality trait that is best inculcated during the early years of life. Here’s how to develop the intangible bond of love between your kid and pooch.

Although most children have a natural affinity towards nature and animals, they can unknowingly hurt an

Children and Dog

Shuchi Kalra

animal out of enthusiasm or ignorance. Moreover, fear and lack of familiarity can fling all the love and compassion out of the window. By teaching children to respect dogs as well as other animals, we are doing our bit to raise a sensitive generation that is connected to nature—this eventually translates into fewer incidents of animal cruelty and abuse.

Bring home a pet: Keeping a household pet is by far the best way to bring your child closer to the animal world but caring for one is not every one’s cup of tea. If the prospect of a dog or a cat seems too daunting for now, consider smaller pets like goldfish, hamsters and guinea pigs who are relatively less demanding in terms of feeding, space and care. A child will learn a lot about animals by observing the mannerism of a pet and will gradually identify the animal as a member of the family.

Let kids share the responsibility: Depending on your child’s age and abilities, assign different care-taking responsibilities. Younger kids could take up simple tasks like putting the dog food in the bowl, arranging the dog’s bedding and playing outdoor games with the pooch while older kids should be able to handle bathing, feeding, walking and training the dog.

Playing with a neighbour pet dog: If you don’t happen to have a dog in the house, may be a neighbour’s affectionate dog can make a good playmate for your child. Teach your children to always ask the pet parent before playing with a pet dog as some dogs do not appreciate juvenile company. Always supervise the interaction.

Teaching good manners: Teach children not to touch dogs during meal-times or when they are sleeping. Show your kid the correct way to pet a dog without touching trouble spots like the tail and the eyes. Children should also be told that animals feel pain and also have feelings.

Say ‘no’ to wrong behaviour: If you find a child teasing a dog, correct him. Dogs usually don’t retaliate unless they are threatened or driven off the edge. Let your kids know that behaving badly with animals is not acceptable and that an animal’s feelings are no different from that of a human being. Children should be taught to gently caress the animal and offering treats in order to establish the trust.

Develop love and compassion: When you talk to your child about dogs, avoid referring to them as “it”. Instead, refer to the pooch by name or use pronouns like “he” or “she”. This helps kids associate them with living beings who undergo pain and trauma just like humans. Once children identify a pooch as a “person” rather than an inanimate object, they are more likely to respect their feelings. For example, try “Coco is too tired to play right now” instead of “Don’t play with the dog. It will bite you!” Let your voice reflect love and compassion for animals if you would like your children to develop the same values.

Watch dog-friendly movies: Introduce your child to stories and books that talk about beautiful relationship between humans and dogs. Several movies (animated and otherwise) that delve into the psyche of animals will help your children relate to the feelings and emotional needs of animals. Old Yeller, Lassie and Lady and The Tramp are great to begin with. Not to forget Marley & Me and Hachiko: A Dog’s Story.

Visit an animal shelter: Similarly, you could spend a few hours at a local animal shelter to sensitise your child towards stray, abandoned, sick and injured dogs. Older kids may be encouraged to volunteer at shelters during holidays or on a couple of Sundays every month. Such activities are a tremendous learning experience and significantly add to your child’s extra-curricular repertoire.

By infusing your children’s hearts with love and regard for canines, you are not only contributing towards their moral development but also reinforcing the timeless bonds between humans and their best buddies.

Dog safety for kids

Dogs are not always in the mood for play or interaction. There is a time and a place for play, petting or just sitting quietly and at other times the dog just wants to be left alone. Dogs communicate with body language and kids and parents can learn to read these subtle signs so that they know when the dog is asking to be left alone.

Most dogs are extremely tolerant, but if a dog is pushed too far by unwanted attention from kids or feels that the child is threatening him is some way he may feel he has no choice but to growl or snap.

A dog who licks his chops, yawns, suddenly begins to scratch or bite at himself, turns his head away, gets up and leaves or looks at you or the child with a half moon of white showing in his eye is telling you that he is anxious, unhappy and has had enough. These signs will precede the more well-recognised signs of a dog who is warning by growling, snarling, barking or snapping. Teach kids to recognise the signs of a happy dog (panting and wagging his tail) compared to a dog who is anxious or busy with something else (mouth closed and the other signs listed previously). Teach them to interact only with happy dogs and to leave a dog alone who is busy with something else or is showing signs of anxiety.

Safety tips

Here are some other tips from Dog gone Safe to help parents and pet parents keep kids safe around dogs:

The three most important things to teach your kids

  • Dogs don’t like hugs and kisses – Teach your kids not to hug or kiss a dog on the face. Hugging the family dog or face-to-face contact are common causes of bites to the face. Instead, teach kids to scratch the dog on the chest or the side of the neck.
  • Be a tree if a strange dog approaches – Teach kids to stand still, like a tree. Trees are boring and the dog will eventually go away. This works for strange dogs and anytime the family dog gets too frisky or becomes aggressive.
  • Never tease a dog – and never disturb a dog who’s sleeping, eating or protecting something.

The two most important things parents can do

    Supervise – Don’t assume your dog is good with kids. If a toddler must interact with your dog, you should have your hands on the dog too. Even if your dog is great with kids and has never bitten – why take a chance?

  • Train the dog – Take your dog to obedience classes where positive-reinforcement is used. Never pin, shake, choke, hold the dog down or roll the dog over to teach him a lesson. Dogs treated this way are likely to turn their aggression on weaker family members. Involve older children in training the family dog while supervising. Don’t allow children to punish the dog. Condition the dog to enjoy the presence and actions of children using positive experiences.

The three most important things pet parents can do

    Spay or neuter your dog – Neutered pets are calm, healthier and less likely to be aggressive. Neutering prevents unwanted dogs who may end up in shelters or in less than ideal conditions where they may grow up to be poorly socialised or aggressive.

  • Condition your dog for the world – Give your puppy lots of new positive experiences. Train using positive methods such as clicker training.
  • Supervise your dog – Supervise your dog at all times around children. Do not allow children to hug and kiss the dog. If visiting children are bothering your dog, put the dog away or send the children home.

Safe games for kids and dogs

Showing your children how to interact safely, playfully and positively with your puppy or dog not only strengthens the bond between them, but also enhances the training process by teaching the dog to respond to commands. Here are some fun and simple training games your children and dog can enjoy together.

Hide and seek: This activity is a hit with both two- and four-footed family members. Have one child distract the dog, while the other hides and calls for him. At first, instruct your kids to hide in easy places so the dog can’t go wrong. When the hider is found, he gives the dog a treat. Once the dog gets the hang of the game, the hider can make it more challenging by going out of sight or into another room while the other child encourages the dog to “go find Jordan!” This game exercises the dog and is also mentally stimulating.

Fetch: This is another good game that gives the dog exercise and is fun for kids. It is important, however, that the dog is taught to give back the fetched object and to step back and wait for the next throw. If the dog tries to engage in a game of tug of war, or refuses to give up the object, the kids should end the game and ignore the dog for awhile. “Any game that pits the strength or speed of the dog against those of the child could lead to over-excitement and even a biting accident,” says canine behaviour consultant Teresa Lewin of Milton K9 Obedience in Milton. “Adult supervision and proper training are essential.”

Stay inside the rope: Clicker training is the best way for kids to get involved with training, and this game gives them a good opportunity to try it. Place a circle of rope on the floor and give each child a clicker and some small dog treats (the kids can make a clicking sound with their tongues if no clickers are available). Toss a treat into the centre of the circle to get started. When the dog has eaten the treat, click before she steps outside the rope and toss another treat into the circle. The goal is to click and reward as often as possible while the dog has all four paws inside the rope circle. Once the dog has the idea that the place to be is inside the rope, the children can start moving around the room, still clicking and tossing treats into the circle. Play this in various locations and eventually the dog will learn to go and lie within the rope. You can then take the rope into any situation where you need to establish a boundary for the dog.

Keep it positive: Variations on this method can be used to teach the dog to prefer a certain room in the house, lie on a mat or in a crate, shake a paw, jump over a stick or just about anything else you and your kids can think up. Just remember to teach your kids never to scold or use physical force. The word ‘No’ is never used, and there is no need to try to ‘dominate’ the dog. If the dog does the wrong thing, the kids ignore him; if he responds correctly, he receives a treat reward.

Dogs and kids can be great together. It is the parent’s and pet parent’s responsibility to ensure that the needs of both are met and that happy interactions are the norm between kids and dogs.

(Joan Orr and Teresa Lewin are co-founders of Doggone Safe, a non-profit organisation dedicated to dog bite prevention through education and dog bite victim support (www.doggonesafe.com). They are also the creators of the Doggone Crazy! board game, Clicker Puppy dog training DVD, the Be a Tree teacher kit and several online courses (www.doggonecrazy.ca)).

Children and Dog

Little caretakers for the tailwaggers

Kids and dogs make a great team. The bonding is strong, the love infectious and the joy knows no bounds. Here’s how kids’ can care for furry friends.

Spending time with pets helps in increasing mutual trust and building the human-animal bond. Time spent together helps your kids and their four-legged friend comprehend each other’s thoughts, moods, gestures and feelings better. Even as little as 20-30 additional minutes a day can be very beneficial to their and their fur pal’s well being, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of planning.

  • Monday–Mental stimulation for the pet
    Brain stimulation is very important in keeping your dog happy and healthy. Remember, bored dogs Children and Dogcause problems. If you don’t keep your dog’s mind stimulated, chances are that he’ll find activities to stimulate his mind himself, which you may not like! Let your kid teach him a new trick or command. Of course, one day is not enough for most dogs to grasp a trick, but you can start today and build on it throughout the week. Teach your kid how to do it and let him make his practice every day. Let both of them enjoy during the session.
  • Tuesday–Truly tailwagger!
    Take a trip to a dog park or some other dog-friendly places. While your kids will have fun with other children and pets, let your pet make new friends and socialise with his butt sniffing buddies! Sit back and watch those tails wag away to glory!
  • Wednesday–Well-being is wealth
    Fix up a date with the dog groomer. Let your kid accompany him and see how his hair and nails get clipped. Let him take clues on how to brush his hair, clean his ears and brush his teeth. You can also groom him at home and let your kid do stuff like brushing his coat and talking to him while you groom him.
  • Thursday–Trip to the grocery store
    Your household chores may seem mundane to you, but your kids and furry babies will love the chance to get out of the house and accompany you. New places mean new smells, which means a trip to doggie heaven!
  • Friday–Friends and family time
    If your kids’ friends like dogs, call them home.
    Let the kids and pooch mingle together. Just keep an eye that both the kids and pooch are safe.
  • Saturday–Scrumpti-drool-ious day!
    “Yummy in my tummy!”
    Whether you feed your dog commercial kibble or homemade food rest of the week, today is his day for a gourmet meal. Master chef or clueless in the kitchen, go ahead and explore your creative side. Team up with your child and prepare a gourmet meal. Keep a lookout for delicious and nutritious pooch recipes and pamper your ball of fur.
  • Sunday– Snooze away…
    Kids love to sleep on Sundays. Let your pooch snuggle in and cuddle up with them. Teach them a lazy belly rub and you will have the happiest dog in the world. Let your kids talk to your fur baby just a little every day. Animals may not understand their words but they do understand their tone and body language. Let them build a bond, they will cherish for their lifetime.

Every dog needs daily exercise, training and some one-on-one time with the humans in the family. Making some extra time just takes a few changes in your daily schedule. A little creativity on your part can go a long way towards meeting those needs. You will come to find it’s well worth it in the long run.

Pooches: your kid’s best tutor..

Pooches: your kid’s best tutor -Tailwaggers can enhance your kid’s reading ability
In therapeutic and educational settings, pets (especially dogs) are decisively a positive and helpful influence. They relieve anger and depression, they are fun and engaging, and they are marvelous catalysts at helping people break through when they are stuck. They inspire them to WANT to participate in their vital therapies, and to have fun while doing so. Here’s how dogs help children with reading disabilities.

The establishment…

Intermountain Therapy Animals was founded in September 1993 by three women who came early to the

Children and Dog

ANGELS TOGETHER

realisation of how interaction with animals could benefit people in therapeutic settings. Their dogs happened to be a German Shepherd, a Doberman and a Rottweiler breeds which are often frightening to some people. This was proof that ANY breed can be a therapy dog if they have the right temperament, a great relationship with their owners, and excellent skills. Founders of R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs), they have helped many kids with reading disabilities.

The R.E.A.D. programme…

“R.E.A.D. was the inspiration of one of our board members – Sandi Martin who wanted to figure out a way to combine her greatest loves – dogs and books. She was a nurse and had seen first-hand the benefits of animals in hospitals. She asked me if I thought those benefits would translate to the reading environment, and – voila! It seemed like an obvious no-brainer of an idea once it was spoken!,” told Kathy Klotz, Executive Director, Intermountain Therapy Animals.

“We started a four-week pilot programme at the Salt Lake City main library in Utah in November 2009 and it was so wildly successful. It has continued at the library and several Salt Lake branches ever since,” she added.

How R.E.A.D. helps…

R.E.A.D. generally focuses on children aged five to eight, to help establish a love of reading and books in that crucial, formative period when they must LEARN TO READ so they can READ TO LEARN for the rest of their lives. Children who are not able to read at proper level when they turn nine almost never catch up, and for the rest of their lives they are behind in education, earnings, socio-economic status, and general success in their lives. “We think it’s so important to help turn today’s children into excited, avid readers at those early ages. In the US, almost 68 percent of children are significantly behind, not reading adequately at age of nine,” told Kathy as a matter of fact.

“We started our elementary school version of the programme in January of 2000. In November of 2009 we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the programme and enjoyed receiving a resolution from the United States Senate in Washington, declaring November 14 as National Reading Education Assistance Dogs Day. The programme has spread throughout the world, including the entire United States, four provinces in Canada, around the UK, and even Spain, Italy and elsewhere. We are now heading for the 12th anniversary of the programme (in November 2011), and the positive results and reactions continue to pour in,” she added proudly.

How dogs help…

The animals are non-judgmental, non-critical and great listeners. They never pressure a child to perform. They get kids away from the frightening pressure of their peers. A R.E.A.D. animal is considered a primary or intrinsic motivator. In other words, they make the actual experience of reading feel good, and be rewarding, so they can’t wait to come back and feel so good again. It’s different from a secondary motivator, like getting an unrelated reward (like a coupon for a free pizza) for reading a certain number of books or whatever.

“Children tell us things like – He won’t go tell my friends I’m stupid if I make a mistake. He never tells me to hurry up like my mom does. Well, I sometimes stutter and he won’t laugh at me when that happens,” told Kathy. “Besides, reading to a dog gives them the opportunity to be the teacher or tutor – they know more than the dog, and they fully believe they are helping him enjoy hearing their stories. They absolutely blossom with pride and confidence when they get to do this – we kept noticing, in all the hundreds of photos people would send us – that kids ALWAYS turn the book so that the dog can see the pictures. They want to make sure the dog understands.”

The mission…

“Our overall purpose/mission is to enhance quality of life through the power of the human-animal bond. We focus on bringing animals into healthcare and educational facilities, like hospitals, senior care centers, rehab facilities, prisons and residential care settings, and then (with R.E.A.D.) schools and libraries. We seldom visit individually in private homes, and we do not maintain a facility where clients come to us. At this point, we have more than 300 active teams, visiting more than 100 facilities in four states (Utah, Nevada, Montana and Idaho),” concluded Kathy proudly.

(Kathy Klotz is Executive Director of Intermountain Therapy Animals and R.E.A.D., Utah).

A puppy party for kid-friendly dogs

Hosting a puppy party is a great way to help your new puppy begin enjoying and feeling at ease around kids. Puppies under five months old can learn a lot in an easy 30-minute play date. Here are a few tips.

Send invitations to 5-10 kids: Write something like this: “We have a new dog! Bailey is a three-month-old Beagle/Labrador mix, and she loves kids! You are invited to her first puppy party where you can help us teach her how to play nicely with kids. Join us on Saturday at 2:30 pm.”

Proper introductions: Have Bailey on a leash when the kids arrive. Step on it so that she cannot jump on

Children and Dog

ANGELS TOGETHER

the children. Ask them to come over and extend their fist (with fingers curled in) so that she can sniff it. Explain to the kids that dogs use their sense of smell to recognise people and that Bailey sniffs them to learn who they are. Most puppies will be wiggly and interested in the kids. Let the kids pet Bailey gently under her chin or on the side of her neck. Encourage the children to be careful of the dog’s sensitive eyes and ears, which will discourage them from petting the dog on top of the head. People often pat dogs on the head, but dogs really don’t like it, so you’ll be teaching the children good habits for interacting with all dogs.

Pass the puppy: After each child has had a chance to meet the puppy on leash, have the kids all sit in a circle on the floor. Each child in turn will be allowed to call Bailey over, give her a treat, and gently pet her for about 15 seconds. Give a few delicious dog treats to each child in turn. The other kids should be told to ignore Bailey if she comes to them when it isn’t their turn. Once everyone has had a turn, go around again and give each child two more treats. Then you will call a child’s name at random, and he can again call Bailey, give her one of the treats, and pet her gently. When everyone has had two turns in the mixed up sequence, the kids can begin teaching Bailey to sit politely for greeting.

Be a tree: Put Bailey in her crate for a few minutes and, teach all of the children to be a tree—by planting their feet, clasping their hands together and holding them close to their body, and looking down at their feet. Tell the kids that by being a tree they are using body language to teach a dog to be calm and polite. Have a few silly, wiggly practice sessions in which you all hop around and then on cue suddenly freeze into the tree pose. Kids love that. Bring Bailey back over on leash and tell each child to be a tree when she comes close. If she jumps on them, they should ignore her and keep being a tree.

Let Bailey wander around the kids for a minute or two. She’ll be wondering why they are all suddenly so boring. Then give the children each a treat and ask them to stand in a circle so they can practice teaching Bailey not to jump on people. As with Pass the Puppy, each kid will take a turn to call Bailey over. If she jumps up, the child should immediately be a tree and withhold the treat. If she does not jump, tell them to give her the treat. After going around the room a few times, Bailey will quickly learn that keeping all four paws on the ground equals treats and jumping makes people become boring. What a great lesson for a young pup to learn.

Helping the lessons to stick: Put Bailey back in her crate for a nap and take the kids to the kitchen to wash up and get a snack. Over cookies and juice, talk to the kids about all the ways they can help Bailey—and the other dogs they know—by interacting with them in gentle, calm ways. Remind them that they can be a tree whenever they are worried about a new dog or when they are near a dog that is being too silly, such as when they come through the door at a friend’s house and the dog greets enthusiastically. Dogs communicate almost exclusively through body language so tell the kids they are learning to communicate with the dogs in “dog language” and that their new skills will make dogs like them even more than they already do.

Thank them for helping you get Bailey off to a good start, and ask them to continue to help you by not petting Bailey if she jumps on them. Using these simple tips, you will soon have a dog who loves hanging out with kids and enjoys gentle, calm interactions with them.

Send out your invitations right away. Kids will be clamoring to come to your puppy party!

(Colleen Pelar, CPDT, CDBC, is the author of Living with Kids and Dogs . . . Without Losing Your Mind. Since 1991, Colleen has been the go-to person for parents trying to navigate kid-and-dog issues. Because a knowledgeable adult can improve every interaction between a child and a dog, Colleen is committed to educating parents, children, and dog owners on kid-and-dog relationships. For more information, visit www.livingwithkidsanddogs.com).