Manor Lake’s Tips For Helping Your Children and Your Australian Labradoodle Puppy Get Along

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Kids and Puppies
Strategies for helping kids and puppies get along.
Maryann Mott

Canine behavior consultant Jennifer Shryock regularly works with parents who are struggling to create kid-and-canine harmony at home.

“Sadly, many have the expectation that a puppy and their kids should be able to get along and tolerate one another,” she says. “This backfires as the kids get frustrated with the puppy’s teething behavior, sharp puppy nails, and excitable behavior.”

A trying time for both adults and children is when puppies start getting their adult teeth (between 2 and 10 months of age). To alleviate discomfort, puppies furiously chew on everything, including human fingers and feet. Mouthing and chewing are also ways puppies explore their environment. You can’t stop a puppy from teething, but you can take steps so that your child doesn’t become his favorite chew toy.

Shryock, who has fostered more than 60 dogs while raising three kids, recommends toddlers and young children sit on Mom or Dad’s lap, or stand on a step, to feel more secure around an active puppy. Shryock believes that setting up these structured play times during which young children are elevated makes them less accessible to mouthy puppies. And if a puppy does become overly playful, parents are there to intervene.

Parents can also attach a toy to a long rope and let kids drag it around for the puppy to chase. This should only be done, though, under adult supervision. This game prevents the puppy from pawing and nipping at the child because the toy is the target and is placed at a distance.

“The bottom line is that toddlers and puppiess should only be together with supervision,” Shryock says. Setting up specific structured activities for the two to engage in is the best way to encourage a safe and fun bond.

For children 8 years or older, when the puppy starts biting, Shryock recommends they stand up (if sitting), stay still, and ignore him. The puppy will quickly become bored and look for something else to do. At that point, they can give the dog a toy, which redirects the chewing to an appropriate item.

Children should not push the puppy away, scream stop, or run. When kids react this way, dogs think they’re playing and will continue to bite.

Jan Wall, a former elementary school teacher and creator of the educational website, Loveyourdog.com, says parents can help children develop a better understanding of their pet dog by simply comparing feelings.

For example, ask your children how they would feel if hit or not given food. They’ll probably respond with the words “hurt” or “hungry.” Explain to them that the puppy would feel the same way.

“If they don’t relate those things as being the same as how they feel, the dog is just a toy that they’re going to be sick of in six months,” says Wall.

Here are a few ground rules to cover with your child:

Treat the puppy nicely. Don’t hit, kick, or tease him. No yanking on his tail or pulling at his ears. Dogs will lash out if provoked or hurt.

Speak in a normal tone of voice. Don’t yell or scream in the puppy’s face. His hearing is more sensitive than ours.

Don’t hug or kiss the puppy. Humans show affection this way, but in the canine world, it’s threatening.

If the puppy walks away from you, don’t follow. Walking away means he doesn’t want to play anymore. (Establish a place in your home where your puppy can rest without the kids and their friends disturbing him. Teach your child to respect the puppy’s resting place.)

Don’t bother the puppy when he’s eating or sleeping. These are times when dogs don’t like to be pestered.

Only two hands on the puppy at once. It’s overwhelming when several kids swarm around him. A frightened dog may bite.

Kids will test and retest boundaries. That’s why supervision is mandatory to keep both children and puppies safe. By watching all interaction and teaching children how to properly act around the puppy, things will go a lot more smoothly.

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