How do I manage my puppy with children around?
My puppy Quin is 5 months old this week, so I have been thinking about how much he has changed. We went to our first formal training session yesterday. This was not a puppy class – I could run those, so have not needed to take him. Therefore I wondered how he would cope with being in a room with other dogs, being made to sit quietly while our trainer was talking. Then being asked to work, as required.
Quin behaved beautifully and really did me proud. He happily said hello to the other dogs, with no barking or wariness. He didn’t annoy them at all (always a bonus!) I asked him to toilet before we went in and he did. Great!
As they grow and change, our puppies have different needs and react in different ways to situations. Managing a puppy in a family home is not just about the week the puppy arrives. It is an ongoing challenge.
I was recently asked advice about a puppy that was biting a lot and really hurting its family. I referred them to my early post about puppy biting. This can be an ongoing issue though and as their adult teeth come through, then can get a bit snappy, or just occasionally carried away when playing.
My top tip in managing your puppy’s biting tendency is to stop them getting over-excited or carried away. Don’t let them take advantage of you or think that it is OK to have them mouthing or biting you ‘just because they are being playful’. It is never OK to allow this behaviour if you are not able to manage it. So if it starts to happen, move yourself or the puppy away from that situation.
Everyone needs to learn what is and is not acceptable in different situations. Children need to know how to manage themselves around their dog. You should NEVER trust your dog alone with your children when they are both young and inexperienced. I would always keep them apart unless they were supervised. Children sometimes struggle to know when enough is enough. Dogs have very sharp teeth. These two things do not mix well. NB: Learn your dog’s calming signals?
In the olden days, (ie when I was a child), we understood the expression ‘let sleeping dogs lie’. If a dog is asleep, leave it alone. Don’t go over and poke it, or pester it in any way. If you call it, you might get a response. When your dog is awake, it will play with you. But don’t expect it to always be ready to play. Dogs spend most of every day asleep. Please respect that?
Teach play skills
Dogs and children love to play together, right? Well, yes, probably. But again, this needs to be managed. I have had to learn how to play effectively with my puppies, so it’s not something that we understand instinctively.
I’ve talked a lot on this website about the way dogs play with each other. They love to play ‘snap-snap’ which gets quite lively and can sound aggressive. They also play chase, roaring around the furniture and jumping on and off things. Then dogs will also play tug with toys. This is the game Quin loves me to play with him. He brings me a toy and asks me to hold it so he can pull against me.
Sunny was the expert at explaining to people what she wanted them to do. Throw the ball! And again! Over and over again. Border Collies are relentless in this respect. Other dog breeds are not quite so persistent. Nor are they so good at explaining what they want. Some dogs like a bit of ‘rough and tumble’, but many dogs won’t like this at all. Or they might get carried away and start to be a bit too aggressive.
Enough is enough
I can tell when my dogs have had enough when playing together. The sound changes – it is louder and sharper. Watch out for this – it means the game must end! A shout from me will bring things to an end, but for some people, dogs need to be separated before a proper fight starts.
Some dogs wind up other dogs, just as some children wind up other children. Quin likes to go and say hello to the other dogs if they’ve been apart. Aura doesn’t like him doing this and grumbles noisily. I always say ‘Quin, don’t annoy Aura.’ It’s not her fault he is being annoying. So don’t blame an older child if the younger one is being irritating? Equally, watch out for children winding up the dog – sometimes it’s a fun game, but it could have fatal consequences.
There is plenty of advice about managing dogs and children, both on this website and elsewhere. As with everything dog-related, it requires a bit of thought and effort. Don’t just expect it will be fine.
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NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.