Teaching Your Dog to Tolerate and Love Children
We live in a world full of children. It always surprises me when child aggressive dogs at shelters are placed in “child-free” homes. Even for those of us who don’t have children…we have children in our lives. Nieces, nephews, friend’s children, step children they are everywhere and cannot be constantly avoided. Dogs that are seriously child aggressive should be seen by a Veterinary Animal Behaviorist so that they can be controlled safely and under the watchful eye of a veterinarian/behaviorist.
Dogs must be taught first to tolerate children, and then hopefully to love children! Socialization should begin early and lots of time should be spent with good kids to help endear them to your dog.
Children are loud, they move fast, they make strange noises and sometimes they engage in behavior that dogs classify as rude and obnoxious. Unfortunately, that is just how children behave and it is difficult to control all the children that your dog will meet so although I do recommend educating and arming children with good doggy social skills, it is also imperative that dogs are subjected to the world of children in a fun and positive way.
I spent 34 years of my life without children under my roof, but there was always the occasional child that made an entrance into my house. My dogs had to be taught to enjoy the company of children despite the fact that sometimes dogs think kids are a little scary.
I have always used early socialization, with good children as a crucial tool. Poorly behaved children and those with no dog social skills can scare a puppy and therefore affect how it feels about children for a long time, if not for life. So I would never recommend taking your dog to Chucky Cheese for a free for all, but I do recommend visiting friends and family who have good, well mannered kids.
Early interaction and respect is essential for both children and dogs in order to have successful life relationships.
I also desensitize my dogs to the rude things that children do in order to prepare for the day they meet a poorly behaved, uneducated child. Although, you may think you can keep these children from your dog, you are probably wrong! There are hyper, naughty children in this world that don’t listen to anyone and I would rather give my dog the tools to deal with them, than deal with the ramifications of a bite!
I use positive reinforcement to teach my dog’s tolerance with a little rough handling and what dogs consider rude behavior.
My background is working with Service Dogs for people with disabilities and therefore taking them into public all of the time. Service/Assistance Dogs get grabbed, stepped on, kicked, yelled at, poked and prodded almost constantly. They must be understanding about all the negative things that happen to them to be successful in their field.
I learned early on to teach my dogs that when bad or painful things happen they would be rewarded by me for good behavior instead of reverting to their instincts to nip, growl or bite. And, I continue to raise my dogs to be tolerant of uncomfortable touch.
What You Need
- Make sure you have excellent treats! You want your dog to enjoy this!
- A fun and positive attitude
How to Train Your Dog to Accept Uncomfortable Touch
- First you have to begin by starting small! I don’t want to hurt or scare my dogs that would defeat the purpose! I want to start by being slightly irritating and reward my dog for a correct response.
- Gently I touch their ears, feet, snout etc. and click. Touch should equal something good.
- As long as I see no signs of aversion I move to the next step of adding more pressure or irritancy.
- This time I hold the ears and paws just a little too long. I poke a little harder but I click and jack pot a good response.
- Use lots of praise and rewards, this should actually be a game and should be fun for you and your dog.
- Don’t do this for long periods of time; this type of training should be done in short positive bouts.
- Next, add a little more pulling and/or pressure, click and treat.
- Work up slowly by increasing the level of discomfort and increasing the praise and rewards. Think of a three year old grabbing your dog’s ear or fur, you want your dog to be use to this sensation and understand that a wonderful reinforcement for good behavior is on its way!
Once while I was out training a Service Dog at a flea market in Denver, CO I experienced the exact reason I desensitize all of my dogs. We were meandering through the flea market shopping and enjoying ourselves when my Service Dog started to act a little weird. He never broke heel position, but the look on his face was odd, and for a moment it didn’t go away.
I turned around to see a 4 year old boy pulling and what almost looked like water skiing from his tail. I could tell the pressure was uncomfortable if not painful. I couldn’t even see the youngster’s parents and he ran off never to be seen from again.
My dog simply looked up at me with wanting eyes as if to say “I SOOOOO deserve a treat for that!!”, and I had to agree! He was showered with treats for such a tolerant response, and for the next several training sessions he was rewarded anytime children were around so that he would not hold any resentment.
I wish we lived in a world where all children treated all dogs with kindness and respect, but that doesn’t always happen. Kids grab ears, fur, paws, they pull tails, step on, kick, and trip over dogs and I am a firm believer that dogs should be taught to accept these behaviors to the best of their abilities and then expect praise and a treat for a job well done. Instead of wanting to bite, they should want to run to you to get their “cookie”!
This desensitization dog training keeps your children and your dogs safe!