Are Children And Dogs A Good Mix?

By: Karen Dennis From The Next Best Thing To Mummy

I believe that children and dogs can be great together; if managed correctly.

When I purchased my German Shepherd puppy “Keira” she was 8 weeks old. I did a lot of research into her breed first (although I have always been an admirer of this type of dog, so knew quite a lot already) I needed a dog that would be good with children as I was a busy childminder at the time. My own children were now growing up fast, my youngest then being 13.

After phoning many breeders my husband, myself and youngest son set off in the car to see our puppy for the first time; it was very exciting!

When we met her she was in the back garden with 7 siblings and her mum. Keira’s mum was very laid back and didn’t seem bothered that we were handling her pups. I had a chat to the breeder about the temperament of the parent dogs (I had been told earlier that 70% of a dog’s temperament is through it’s genes and the other 30% by the way it is treated) She assured me that both parents had excellent temperaments and that she wouldn’t use them for breeding otherwise. This particular breeder was one of the good ones; she had paperwork to back up a lot of her claims, she was also Kennel Club Registered. I’m sure not all breeders are as good or honest as this, so do your homework first!

When we got Keira home; I enrolled her into a puppy party (your vet should have details of these) It is very important that puppies are exposed to many different experiences from a young age. Puppy parties are run by qualified dog trainers who will explain all about this.

While Keira was eating I would put my hand into her bowl, adding tasty morsels; the idea being that a hand near her food was a positive thing.

I spent a lot of time socialising my puppy, even before she was fully vaccinated I would stand outside of my son’s school at home time with her in my arms. Before long we were surrounded by children and a few teachers all wanting to stroke her. I also used to sit on a wall by my home beside a busy road with her on my lap so she would get used to the sight and sound of traffic.

One of the main problems with a puppy is mouthing (this is not biting as such, just a dog learning about new things by using his mouth; much like a baby) This can hurt though and the most effective way to prevent it is to squeal, like a litter would and then ignore your puppy for a moment.

Jumping up is another problem you will have to overcome. When your dog does this; turn your back (similar to the advice I have given on managing children’s behaviour, ignore the bad, reward the good.)

While I had minded children in my home I would keep Keira in the utility room, so she could have time on her own and not be pulled about by the children. I would let them play with her for short SUPERVISED periods so she could get used to them. When we went out we had to exit my home via the back door to get to the car, so I would put Keira into a Dog Crate with a tasty treat to prevent her from jumping up, and let her out once the children were in my car.

Ensure your dog stays healthy by taking him to a vet for his vaccinations get him neutered and treated for fleas and worms. Always encourage children to wash their hands after playing with animals.

I would trust Keira with my life, but I WOULD NEVER LEAVE HER UNSUPERVISED WITH CHILDREN even though my grand children and other young visitors love to play with her.