We've all seen them: those carefree dog food commercials that feature adorable, furry puppies jumping on the laps of children, licking their faces and, for the most part, being on their best behavior. Unable to resist the allure of this loveable scene played out on television, children ask their parents for a dog of their own.
Many parents give in to the requests. After all, a puppy would make a great companion, maybe distracting the youngster from his video games for a while, and it just might teach the child some responsibility. But buying or adopting a dog is easy. The hard part is getting the dog to act like the ones in the commercials, and that task becomes even trickier when there are kids involved!
First and foremost, never buy a dog as a toy substitute. Dogs are living, breathing creatures with feelings. Children should be taught this fact from an early age and should be shown how to treat dogs with respect. By adopting a new dog for the right reasons and instilling the right mindset within the children involved, a parent takes the first step in avoiding undesired consequences, such as mistreatment and neglect.
Whenever a parent makes the important decision to bring home a dog for the kids, they should also make the commitment to enroll the dog (and the rest of the family) in a formal training program. Learning how to communicate effectively with your dog in a language he understands, using voice tones and body language, is the first step toward establishing a lasting emotional relationship based on a balance of bond, respect and trust.
Some tips to help ensure that your new furry friend has a smooth and safe transition to your household include:
Never leave a child or baby alone with a dog. When visiting friends or relatives who have a dog, do not allow your child to play in the yard unsupervised. If that is not possible, ask the owners to put their dog away.
Do not allow your child to feed a dog unsupervised, as some dogs can be very protective of food. Also, never allow your child to hand-feed your dog; this teaches the dog that is acceptable to take any food from children.
Do not allow your child to pull on the dog's collar to lead him outside the house, as he could bite. Children without adult supervision should not be allowed to walk a dog, as the child could be dragged unwittingly into a fight with another dog. Dogs should be taught to respond to verbal commands. However, if the dog does not respond to a verbal command given by the child, correction should be given by the parent, not the child. In fact, under no circumstances should a child ever discipline a dog. That is the parents' job.
In addition to the above tips to help parents create a safe environment for their children and their new dog, here are some additional tips that parents should teach their children for when they are not around to directly supervise them. Children should be instructed to:
- Never pet a strange dog, even if his owner is present.
- Stay away from a dog while he is eating and sleeping.
- Stop your bike if chased while riding.
- Never retrieve a ball from someone else's yard.
- If visiting friends who have dogs, ask them to put their dogs away if you want to play.
- Stay away from a dog that has puppies.
- Stay away from a dog that is tied up.
- Never pull a dog's tail or ears; dogs feel pain, too.
- Never tease a dog or make it angry.
- Stand totally still if a dog runs at you barking. Lock your hands together in front of you. If knocked to the ground by a dog, roll into a ball, cover your face with your arms and stay as still as you possibly can. Do not try to get up.
To help reduce the number of dog bite incidents involving children by teaching them to make the right decisions around strange and familiar dogs and treat all dogs with care and respect, Bark Busters has created the Bach & Buster Buddy Dog Safety Program. Visit BarkBustersBuddy.org, where your kids can find fun, interactive activities and take a Dog Safety Quiz; after passing the quiz, your child will become an official Bach & Buster Buddy club member and receive a personalized, printable certificate.
With some planning and forethought, adopting a dog can be fun-both for parents and children. A dog can provide one of the best forms of companionship possible, teach children some responsibility and bring smiles to all. And by following the above tips and making a commitment to train your dog and grow your emotional bond, you may soon have the dog food companies calling you for a TV spot.