With the rise in pet ownership rates around the world, dogs have become a more common part of families. They were already called ‘man’s best friend’, and now they’re becoming kids’ best friends, too. Dog breeding in Australia, America, and most other developed countries has gone from niche specialty to big-time business. Thankfully, the internet has made it easier to find ethical breeders who focus on pets that are suited for novice owners.
However, some parents may be wary of adding a furry friend to their family, especially if they’ve never owned a dog before. The good news is most dog breeds make great family pets, and almost all dogs can be trained to play well with kids. It takes a little effort (and patience), but the love and loyalty of a dog you’ve raised from puppyhood is incomparable. Today we’ll be walking you through ten tips to train your dog to be more kid-friendly.
10 Tips for Training Your Dog to be Kid-Friendly
- Start early: It’s best to start training your dog when they are a puppy, but it’s never too late to start.
- Be consistent: Dogs respond best to consistent training. So, make sure you and anyone else who interacts with your dog are using the same commands and teaching them the same behaviours.
- Use positive reinforcement: Reward your dog for good behaviour around children, such as not jumping or getting too close without permission. This will reinforce good behaviour and help them understand what is expected of them . Dogs learn best when they are given positive reinforcement, but the form of that reinforcement can be specific to your dog. Whether it’s praise, treats or pets, find out what your dog loves the most and use it to your advantage.
- Keep training sessions short: Dogs have short attention spans, so it’s important to keep training sessions short and sweet. Otherwise, they’ll get bored and won’t retain anything you’re trying to teach them.
- Be patient: Like with most things in life, success with dog training takes time and patience. Don’t get discouraged if your dog isn’t picking things up as quickly as you’d like – just keep at it and they’ll eventually get there. It may take some time, but it will be worth it in the end. Learning how to train your dog can be challenging at first, but so long as you try to be consistent and don’t go too fast, it should eventually click.
- Use food rewards: Many dogs are motivated by food, so using treats as rewards for good behaviour can be very effective. Just be careful not to overdo it, or your dog may become overweight!
- Use toys as rewards: If your dog isn’t motivated by food, try using their favourite toy as a reward instead. This can be especially effective if your dog loves to play fetch or catch.
- Get everyone on board: If you want your dog to be kid-friendly, it’s important that everyone in the family is on board with the training process. That means no teasing or playing rough with the dog – only positive interactions should take place.
- Avoid punishment: Yelling at or punishing your dog will only serve to make them scared of kids (and of you). Instead, focus on rewarding good behaviour so that your dog knows what you expect from them.
- Socialise early and often: Socialisation is an important part of raising a well-rounded dog who is comfortable around people and other animals. This important part of raising a dog will help them become comfortable and confident around kids. It’s best to start socialising your pup early on, but even older dogs can benefit from meeting new people and experiences
Remember that it’s important to teach kids how to interact with dogs properly as well, even if your dog is well-trained. Make sure they know not to pull on the dog’s tail or ears, and to always ask permission before approaching or petting a dog. Many of children’s instinctive behaviours can seem threatening to an untrained, unsocialised dog. If they meet someone else’s dog, a healthy amount of respect for a dog’s boundaries will help them get along better and lower the risk of accidents.
It’s also a good idea to never leave your dog unsupervised around young children, even if the dog is friendly and well-behaved. Your dog may not intend to hurt anyone, but their claws and teeth can still draw blood, even by accident. This is especially true for larger, heavier breeds and more boisterous dogs. This is why choosing the right breed is important if you’re planning to start a family.
Finally, do not be shy about seeking professional help if you’re having trouble training your dog to be kid-friendly or if you have any concerns about their behaviour around children. A professional trainer can offer helpful tips and guidance specific to your situation.