Setting Your Child and Your Family Dog Up For Success
Raising a child alongside a dog can be a wonderful thing for everyone in the family and can have lifelong benefits for the children in the household.
Of course, as any responsible parent knows, raising a child around a dog does have its risks, which is why it’s so important for parents to take precautions when it comes to raising a child and a dog under the same roof.
Thanks to a number of new studies, we are learning more than ever about our four-legged family members and how they think, what they feel, and why they do what they do, making it easier for dogs and humans to not only live happier lives together but to thrive together.
We are also learning that there are incredible benefits to growing up alongside a dog, both for the child and the pooch.
So, what are some of the benefits of growing up with dogs, and how can you help your child and dog build a healthy and strong relationship?
Let’s find out!
The Benefits of Growing Up With Dogs
Studies have repeatedly shown that children who grow up with animals are healthier both physically and emotionally. They tend to have fewer behavioral issues, are less likely to become obese and more likely to maintain active lifestyles, and they have reduced levels of anxiety, are more empathetic, and tend to be more patient.
But before you jump on the bandwagon of dog ownership while raising a child, there are a few things you’ll want to consider.
The age of your child and breed of the dog you adopt should certainly come into play. You should also consider your lifestyle, how much time you have to train and socialize your dog, and if you are ready for the commitment of raising a dog while at the same time raising kids.
Along with their countless amazing qualities, dogs, like kids, can be messy, mischievous, and expensive, so just keep that in mind before you decide to welcome a pup into your already busy household.
Three Important Factors to Remember
There are lots of things to consider before welcoming a dog into a home with children, but for now, let’s go over the three basics.
- The dog’s breed or past history
- The dog’s overall temperament
- Your lifestyle
The Dog’s Breed and/or Past History
Throughout history, dogs have been bred to perform certain tasks and this will often show itself in your dog’s personality at some point.
For example, Golden Retrievers were bred as water retrieving dogs and were designed to be gentle, playful, and obedient.
Herding dogs, like Australian Shepherds, on the other hand, were originally bred as ranch dogs that were created to work hard and think for themselves.
Before you decide to get a dog, we suggest you look into different types of breeds and consider what you want in your ideal family dog.
Of course, while the dog breed does matter due to energy level, affection, patience, and so on, be wary of sources that discriminate against so-called “aggressive” breeds and remember that, according to studies, the most aggressive dogs are unneutered male dogs.
Mutts and mixes may still carry traits from their parent breeds, so if you can, try and find out what your mixed-breed dog has in his bloodline.
You should also consider your dog’s history. Are you purchasing a puppy from a breeder, or are you adopting a rescue?
Both options have pros and cons, and it’s important to weigh those pros and cons based on what you and your family are looking for in a dog.
If you do plan on rescuing and you have children in the home, pick a dog that has a history of getting along well with children, strangers, and other household pets and certainly avoid a dog who is fearful of children, has resource aggression, or is otherwise impatient or uneasy around youngsters.
The Importance of Training and Early Socialization
Perhaps the most important part of raising a dog alongside a child is ensuring that your dog has been properly socialized at an early age.
This is most crucial for those considering rescuing an adult dog. Be sure to go through a responsible rescue or shelter and discuss the dog’s history, temperament, and age.
Unfortunately, dogs that have not been properly socialized between the ages of 3 and 16 weeks are more likely to show fear, aggression, and other behavioral issues, and could be more likely to snap or nip at children, people, and other pets.
If you are a family with children and plan to rescue a dog, we suggest adopting a pooch that you know has been properly socialized or getting a puppy younger than 16 weeks of age that you can socialize yourself.
We should also note that socialization and training is an ongoing process and should be maintained throughout your dog’s lifetime.
Teaching Your Children Boundaries When It Comes to Dogs
For the most part, no dog bites or shows aggression without warning or for no good reason, and it’s important to teach children how to read a dog’s body language and respect a dog’s boundaries.
Despite what many “cute” videos and photographs on the Internet and social media may want you to believe, dogs do not enjoy being hugged, sat on, held down, poked and prodded, having their ears or tails yanked on, or startled out of their sleep.
For your dog and child to build and maintain a strong, trusting bond, we suggest teaching your child how to appropriately interact with dogs at a young age. Teach them safe boundaries and explain to them what to watch for in a dog’s body language, how to be gentle, and when to leave a dog alone.
Other Things To Remember When Deciding To Get A Family Dog
Dog’s are wonderful teachers and can help children and even adults learn to be better people.
By encouraging your child to build a healthy and trusting bond with the family dog, you are giving your child the gift of a loving companion unlike any they will ever have in their lifetime.
Lead by example and treat your dog with respect and kindness. Allow your children to take part in training exercises, and never use punishment or scolding as a way of disciplining your dog. To learn more about how you can help embrace raising dogs and children together and for more information on training and the benefits of positive reinforcement methods, visit us at www.walkmydogspot.com.