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Children an Dog

Striking the angelic bond!

Good kids and good dogs will have miscommunications every day. By teaching children and dogs how to interact with one another, we are laying the groundwork for happy, healthy relationships between them.

Kids and dogs: they go together like apple pie and vanilla ice cream or cookies and milk. Parents can do a lot to foster a strong, loving relationship. It’s simply a matter of education. We do the best we can with what we know. When we know more, we do better. Let’s do better!

Here are three steps for letting your child meet a dog

It is very important to teach kids how to interact with dogs they are interested in. Childish excitement could

Children and Dog

Striking the angelic bond!

be interpreted as a threat by inexperienced dogs.

Step 1: Ask the owner: Teach your kids never to rush up toward a dog. Tell them to stop about five feet away and ask the owner, “May I pet your dog?” Sometimes the answer will be ‘No’. Many dogs don’t live with kids and are not comfortable with them. So if the dog’s owner says ‘No’, that’s okay. Remind your kids that there are lots of other dogs who would love to be petted by them. If the pet parent says ‘Yes’, then the children must ask the dog.

Step 2: Ask the dog—do not skip this step! Have your children make a fist with the palm pointed down. Then they can slowly extend their arm for the dog to sniff their hand. Teaching the kids to curl their fingers in minimizes the risk of a dog nipping their finger. When the dog is being given the opportunity to sniff, watch his body language.

Does he come forward with loose, waggy motions? That’s definitely a ‘Yes’.

Does he lean forward for a quick sniff and seem comfortable? Also a ‘Yes’.

Does he turn his face away from your child’s hand? Back away? Bark? Move behind the owner? Look anxious and unsettled? Growl? These are all No’s.

Unfortunately some pet parents don’t understand or respect their dog’s decision and will drag the dog forward saying, “Oh, he’s fine. He loves kids. You can pet him.” DON’T! Do not ever allow your children to pet a dog who does not approach them willingly.

Step 3: Pet the dog: If the owner says ‘Yes’ and the dog says ‘Yes’, the kids can pet the dog. Tell your kids that they need to be careful of a dog’s sensitive eyes and ears. Most dogs don’t like to be petted on top of their heads, but nearly all people pet dogs this way—it’s a hardwired human behaviour. There is a blind spot on top of a dog’s head. If he sees your child’s hand moving toward that area, the natural inclination is for him to tilt his head up and watch where the hand is going. Now your child’s hand is reaching right over the dog’s teeth—not a very good place for that hand to be. Suggest that your children stroke the side of the dog’s neck, rub under his chin, scratch his chest, or pet along his back. Most dogs prefer slow, gentle strokes to rapid pat-pat-patting.

A parent’s guide to dog-bite prevention

The best barrier against the aggression is a strong social drive. When choosing a dog for your family, look for one who adores people, especially children. A dog who really enjoys kids will give your kids the benefit of the doubt when they step on his tail or fall over him. Even with the best supervision, there will be times when a child hurts a dog. One day, one of my sons kicked off his snow boot, which went flying down the hall and hit the dog. Fortunately for all of us, Gordo didn’t bat an eye.

I often see dogs who could be great family members with some support from the parents. Supervision, along with a basic understanding of dog behaviour, is the key. For example, here is something I bet you don’t know: Dogs don’t like hugs! Oh, I know, your dog loves when your kids hug him. While I believe that dogs can be taught to accept and, in a few cases, even welcome hugs, I also know that hugging is not a normal dog behaviour. Think about the last time you saw one dog “hug” another. It wasn’t a gesture of affection, was it? No, it was either mating or a dominance display. Do you really want your dog thinking your child is attempting either of those behaviours?

Children, especially preschoolers, rarely understand the concept of personal space. We parents need to be sure that our dogs get some downtime away from the kids. It’s wearing to have someone following you around all day, even if he means well. My kids know that if the dog goes in his crate, they cannot talk to him or pet him until he chooses to come back out. It gives the dog a private refuge where he’s not expected to be the local celebrity, the centre of attention.

Learning a bit about canine body language helps too. There is a set of behaviours—called calming signals—dogs display when they are stressed. These serve two purposes: they are an attempt at self-soothing, akin to thumb sucking, as well as a message to others that the dog would like the situation to defuse. Watchful parents can step in when they see their dog exhibiting these behaviours.

Lip licking—When a dog is a little anxious, he will often quickly stick out his tongue and lick his lips. It’s usually just a fast, little flick. Watch your dog; this is one of the most common signals I see.

Yawning—This is often mistaken for contentment. The dog is surrounded by kids, and he lets out a big yawn. Isn’t that sweet? Nope, it’s a sign that he’s in a little over his head and would appreciate your help.

Shaking off—We’ve all seen dogs shake off when they are wet, but this happens at other times too. Time to shake off and start over. It will happen right after something makes the dog uncomfortable, usually as he’s walking away.

Freezing—Watch out! Freezing is one step beyond a calming signal; it’s often a last-ditch attempt to tell you to back off. Dogs typically freeze right before they snap or bite. That may sound obvious, but one of the scariest things I ever saw was when a pet parent told me, “Lucy loves to have kids hug her. Look how still she is.” It was a heart-stopping moment for me. Lucy, thank goodness, did not bite, but she was definitely not enjoying the experience.

Spaying and neutering our pets helps too. Nearly 80 percent of dog bites come from intact males.

What to do when your child is afraid of dogs

Whenever Laura sees a dog, she shrieks and clings to her mother’s leg. Thomas runs the other way. And Samuel just freezes, wide eyed in terror.

Each of these children is afraid of dogs. As parents, we strive to teach our kids how to cope with life and its challenges. Yet some parents mistakenly believe that it is good for a child to be afraid of dogs because then the child will be more cautious around them. It doesn’t usually work that way. When children are frightened, they often run, scream and flail. These actions typically bring a dog closer, not keep it away.

The more you know about something, the less scary it becomes. Many kids are frightened because they don’t know what a dog will do next. Dogs communicate almost entirely through body language. A basic knowledge of body language can help kids to understand a dog’s intentions.

After you have a basic understanding of body language, start watching dogs from a distance. Park outside a pet supply store and talk about the dogs you see coming and going. Which ones look happy, which look frightened, which have been taught to walk nicely on a lead, which seem like old or young dogs?

When your child is very comfortable watching dogs at a distance, try introducing older, calm dogs to your child. Respect her fear and work at her own pace. Don’t try to rush or cajole her into doing more than she’s comfortable with.

Most children will reach out and touch a calm dog’s haunches if the owner turns the dog’s head away from the child. That’s an excellent first step. Talk with your child about how the dog’s fur feels. Ask her if she thinks other dogs’ fur would be softer or more rough. Get her thinking about that one dog as an individual. Ask the pet parent to talk about some of the dog’s favourite activities.

Work towards having your child gives the dog cues (with dog’s owner ensuring that the dog complies). Seeing a dog respond correctly to what she asks will help her feel safe.

It’s best for her to work steadily with one dog until she feels very comfortable before adding another. Once she has met and likes three calm adult dogs, begin thinking about introducing her to a puppy. Puppies are bouncy and outgoing, which can be unnerving for a tentative child. Again, let her start out at a distance, simply observing the puppy’s behaviour.

Take it slow. It’s much better to teach your child to be a skilled observer of animal behaviour than it is for her to be thrown into situations that frighten her. With patience and time, she will learn that there are many gentle, social dogs, and she’ll be able to interact safely and calmly with new dogs she meets. That’s far, far safer than having her remain afraid of all dogs.

On a concluding note…

It’s important not to blame kids for being kids or dogs for being dogs. Let’s be realistic; it’s impossible to control someone else’s behaviour 100 percent, be it dog or child. We parents can, however, teach dogs and kids to enjoy each other’s company more by building an understanding of each other’s behaviour—and in doing so, we will decrease that scary number of annual dog bites and help ensure that our children are not bitten.

(Colleen Pelar, CPDT, CDBC, is the author of Living with Kids and Dogs . . . Without Losing Your Mind. Since 1991,she 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 http://www.livingwithkidsanddogs.com.)

Siberian Huskies : angelic beauties

With your Siberian Husky pal, you are bound to experience amazement, joy, love and companionship. You can enjoy wonderful conversations everyday with this bosom pal of yours. A perfect companion we can vouch for!

Keen, friendly, alert and mischievous are the apt words to describe a Siberian Husky. Equally appealing is their graceful and smooth gait. A thing of beauty is a joy forever and Siberians really live upto it. They are beautiful not only in their looks but also in their disposition. 

“Their eyes, in my opinion are limpid pools of sparkling, coloured beauty. Perhaps having the Siberian Husky’s eyes as an inspiration, contact lenses of different shades are in vogue with the human beings,” adds Yash of Yashbans Kennels, a reputed breeder of Siberian Husky.

Journey down the lane

Dog breed profileBelieved to have originated with Coastal Chukchi tribes of the east-Siberian peninsula, Siberian Huskies are one of the oldest breeds of dogs. They were imported from Anadyr River and surrounding regions into Alaska to be used as sleddogs, especially in the All- Alaska Sweepstakes, a dogsled race from Nome to Candle and back. These dogs are still used in Iditarod Trail Sled Race, a race over 1150 miles of the roughest, most beautiful terrain Mother Nature has to offer in Alaska.

The famous ‘Eight Below’ movie by Walt Disney portrayed eight sleddogs, six of which were our beautiful Siberian Huskies. The movie shows how these intelligent, courageous dogs fight to make it through the most unforgiving winter. Both dogs and their parents make a remarkable journey of grit, endurance and belief to find one another again in a spectacular but perilous land.

Bask in their beautiful looks

One look at a Siberian Husky and you are bound to think that he is a perfect picture of balance, power, agility and endurance. He is a medium sized, moderately compact working dog, quick and light on his feet, fast moving and extremely graceful. Other characteristic features include dense coat, erect ears and a brush tail.

His face is expressive, friendly and even mischievous. His almond-shaped eyes are placed slightly slanted upwards. And when it comes to the colour of their eyes, they can be varied – all shades of brown or blue, or one of each, or particoloured. His ears are medium size, triangular, and set close and high on head. His well furred tail is like that of fox and set just below the level of the topline. A Siberian Husky carries it over the back in a graceful, sickle curve. “A trailing tail is normal when the dog is in repose,” tells Yash.

The Siberian Husky comes in a variety of colours, from black and white to pure white. “He has striking head markings, a cap like mark or spectacles, which is a typical feature of this breed. Breeding these wonderful dogs is challenging and exciting as they come in so many colour variations and wonderful eye colours,” adds Yash.

The average height of the males is 21-23 inches while that of females is 20-22 inches. The males weigh around 20-28 kg while females weigh between 15 and 23 kg.

Lovely disposition

The Siberian Husky’s affectionate nature, gentle behaviour, friendly disposition and loyalty make him a great pet and an excellent companion. “The best quality of them as an animal is the affection and the love that they want to give. Being gentle dogs, they make safe companions to children and the elderly,” tells Yash.

If you want somebody to talk to, a Siberian is a perfect choice. “He seldom barks, but is talkative and can keep conversations going on and on,” laughs Yash. “It is a marvellous experience to live with these amazing, high spirited, intelligent dogs. I have had many breeds over the last three decades and though each breed has had its individual characteristics and attitude, the Siberian Husky in my opinion, surpasses all of them. I have this habit of talking to my pets and though I find it very rewarding to have responses with a bark or a wag of the tail, it is indeed thrilling to have a dog who can actually reply to you in various tones and keep a conversation going.”

A Siberian is highly intelligent with an eager disposition. He is a willing worker. However, he is not much of a guard dog. He has great stamina and sustained power for long distances. He would like to run and run and play.

Living : a pleasure with a Siberian Husky

A Siberian Husky is very gentle and affectionate with clean habits. He is extremely adaptable to live in the house as a pet and companion. “He is neither too small nor too big to own. He is of the right size to live in a house as well as an apartment,” tells Yash.

“Although Siberian is generally non-aggressive and gets along with other breeds of dogs quite well, but if he is attacked, he will not take things lightly,” tells Yash.

The Siberian Husky loves to live in a cool place and they should be given plenty of water to drink at all times.

Bringing home a Siberian bundle of joy

The Siberian Husky is one of the easiest breeds to maintain. “Just make sure that your puppy is from a reputed breeder, has had all his initial vaccinations, has been socialized at the breeder’s place and has a balanced diet,” tells Yash.

Start their training at an early age itself. Pups normally have the habit of jumping on people and this should be discouraged in the beginning itself. Besides this, just love and affection will make him a pleasure to own.

Pretty up your Siberian

Though he has a dense coat, he does not have a doggy odour. Start your Siberian’s grooming schedule at an early age itself so that he will learn to enjoy this experience and this way, the bond between you and your puppy grows stronger. “He is generally a very clean dog, so he rarely needs a bath. Put him on a grooming table and brush him everyday with a slicker brush and a pin brush, if necessary,” tells Yash. As they have a dense coat, it is difficult to make out if they have ticks or fleas or any infection, which can get aggravated over some time. Hence regular brushing is necessary so that you can detect any problem with your Siberian Husky at an early age itself.

“Since the Siberian loves to dig, make sure you wipe his paws everyday with a clean, moist towel before you bring him indoors. His nails need to be seldom clipped if he is an outdoor dog. If he is an indoor dog, then make sure you clip his nails or file them, once in every two months,” she adds. “As these are extremely clean animals, I sometimes simply watch in fascination and amazement at the way they groom themselves, especially by licking and cleaning their dirty paws after their playing. They are just like cats!” To clean his teeth and gums, give him chews to gnaw on, or else you might have to brush his teeth regularly with a doggy toothpaste.

The Siberian Husky sheds his coat profusely but VERY, VERY RARELY. If he is on a healthy diet and has a clean coat, without any fungal or bacterial infections, he rarely sheds. “In my personal experience, I find my Siberians only shed their coat once they have had a litter and extremely rarely at other times,” adds Yash.

Play time = work outs

As per Yash, there is no laid down rule as to how much exercise you should give your Siberian Husky. “Once your puppy is about a year old, you could take him for walks, run with him, play with him, till you get exhausted and tired,” she adds. “The game that the Siberians love to play is only CATCH ME IF YOU CAN! They will come near you, tease you, and the moment you try to get hold of them, they will dodge and slip away and boldly just stand a few feet away, with that mischievous look, saying once more CATCH ME IF YOU CAN!” tells Yash.

Health : not an issue

“They are very hardy dogs and I am sure if responsible, breeders take up the task of promoting and popularizing this breed in India, we would not come across any genetic problems, especially that of hip dysplasia which most working dogs unfortunately face today, due to irresponsible breeders and owners,” tells Yash.

A word of caution

“Since the Siberian Husky loves to dig and climb, make sure that they are kept in escape proof enclosures. Never ever make the mistake of letting them loose to play in parks or open areas. You will have to wait endlessly for them to return back to you,” tells Yash. “So, if you think that the Siberian Husky is the right breed for you, as it is for me, go ahead and get yourself one of these magnificent, beautiful friends,” concludes Yash.

(Yashodhra runs one of India’s most reputed and successful kennels called Yashbans Kennel in Bangalore, for almost three decades now. She has been a proud recipient of top awards like the ‘Breeder of the Year’, ‘Dog of the Year,’ and ‘Reserve Dog of the Year.’ Yashbans Kennels has now expanded from Breeding Kennels to Boarding Kennels and Grooming Parlours, all with world class facilities. She can be contacted at Yashbans Farm, Kyalasanahalli , Off., Hennur Main Road, Bangalore – 560 077, Ph: 28465321/ 65639548/ 98440 58080/98863 12691, email ; Yashbans@gmail.com, Website : www.yashbans.com)

-Yashodhra