A Mother’s Love

When I started K-9 Coach some 15 years ago, I was the mother of four legged kids: Maggie, Mulligan, Munson and Lewis the cat. I have written about them many times. In fact, Maggie is the reason I started K-9 Coach. In the late summer of 2007, my son was born. Munson had passed. Dutch had joined the pack. Maggie, Mulligan and Lewis were old, but doing well. My son will be 9 soon. The pups and Lewis have all crossed the rainbow bridge.

My son LOVES dogs and, although we have and will always have pups, I know that the experiences he had with our dogs early on will be carried his entire life. These memories will paint how he reacts to and treats other dogs. They will influence what he tells his own children about dogs and so on and so forth. I realize now that the socialization my pups received, well before my son was born, AND the socialization he has received with pups, since he was born, all serve to enrich each other now and for future generations. With that, I wanted to take the opportunity this month to provide you with some valuable tips and tools to help you socialize your pups and your children correctly to each other.

General Suggestions… 

  • Set yourself, your dog and your child up for success. If either do not want to approach, accept it. Do not try to coax them.
  • Have a plan. Recreational sporting activities, parks, friends’ houses, etc… are great for socialization, but don’t “jump off the deep end.” Observing these places without your puppy first will help you succeed.
  • Have rules. If children want to meet your puppy, their parents must be present and you should never leave puppy and child together without adult supervision. You don’t want your puppy to accidentally harm your child or vice versa.
  • Know when to say when. It’s about quality, not quantity. Overwhelming a pup with a lot of children will undermine the socialization process. Too much time will just get your puppy too excited and distracted or increase the probability that something will go wrong.

Dog Specific… 

  • If you are treating your pup, give them to your puppy yourself or ask children to toss them on the ground near your puppy so he doesn’t learn to steal food from their hands, accidentally nip them, etc….
  • Do not allow your puppy to interact roughly with kids. This includes nipping, chasing, biting, etc. Kids run. They wrestle. They squeal. When needed, redirect your puppy’s attention with obedience work, games, an interactive toy, etc… We do not want him practicing bad behaviors.
  • Socialize your puppy to children of all ages. Infants, toddlers, 5 year-olds, 9 year-olds, etc… all behave much differently. Be sure to cover all bases so your puppy becomes familiar with many different types of children.
  • If your puppy is nervous around children, or they growl or snap at a child, do not punish them. Instead, redirect them, remove them from the situation and consult a professional, positive reinforcement dog trainer to help you with this process.

Child Specific… 

  • If you are going to allow kids to meet your puppy, coach the kids to “ask the dog” by standing a few feet away and offering inviting body language — avoiding direct eye contact, patting a leg, kissy sound, crouching down, speaking sweetly. Hopefully these lessons will be taken with the child when they meet another dog later.
  • Encourage children to approach your dog calmly and slowly. Even the gentlest and most patient dog can be startled by loud noises or sudden movements.
  • Don’t allow kids to pick up, hug, or heavily pet your puppy. Puppies that are exposed to this can learn that children are no fun.
  • Guide the interaction based on what is developmentally appropriate for different age children.

Socializing your puppy to children is a lot of fun. Not only are you teaching your puppy that children are wonderful, but you’re helping to prevent dog – child bites and you are teaching children that puppies are wonderful. Please remember that if you are having difficulty or are struggling during the socialization process, consult a professional, positive dog trainer as soon as possible.

When I started K-9 Coach, I had a pretty simple goal. I wanted to help people experience joy with their pups. Since then, and even today, this goal is reflected in our work. I hope that you will take advantage of the above information and that it will help you to experience joy today in your family and in the future when your children are teaching their children.

As I close this article, I am reminded of one of my favorite mom quotes – “Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; A mother’s secret hope outlives them all.”Oliver Wendell Holmes

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K-9 Coach