Dog Proofing your Children

Having three kids and rotating fosters in and out of our home, Diana and I have learned a few things about getting dogs and kids to play nice together. First, you and your kids are part of the pack as is every other living creature in your home. Second, children (less than 12 years old) will almost never out rank a dog in the pack order according to your grey. With these two things in mind we have established rules in our home that keep things running smoothly.

-Never let a child inside a crate with a dog, this includes reaching into the crate to pet them. This is the dog's safe zone and their space should be respected when they retreat to their crate.

-Never let a child pass out treats to multiple dogs. Greys get very excited about treats and frequently forget just how big they are when jockeying for position. If you have multiple dogs and want to let a child give treats to the dogs be sure that the other dogs are outside or crated and only allow the child to treat one dog at a time. Making treat time from your child a special event will also help keep the greys from assuming that when they see a child with food that it must be a treat for them.

-Never feed a dog from the table, your grey will associate your meal time as a snack time for them. Kids tend to be easier to reach around and if your dog is tall enough to reach onto the table your kid's food will be their first target.

-When introducing a dog to children it's best to let them meet on comfortable terms. Both child and dog should be standing, mom or dad should be between them with one hand on the dog and there should not be any other dogs nearby. Start with a little head scratching then let your child move beside the dog to pet him. Your child should be taught how to pet the dog without getting near sensitive areas, i.e. mouth, eyes, belly.

-If a dog runs when your child enters the room do not allow your child to approach the dog alone. Slowly build up trust by having your child help you pet/scratch/ brush and have them affirm the dog as they work.

-Once the dog is comfortable with your child you can add little things to your daily routine that will help build their relationships. Let your child lock the door when crating the dog and let them open the crate when it's time for the dog to come out or allow them to place the dog's food bowl down at feeding time.

-Teach your child how to lead the dog. All of our dogs wear martingale collars and the kids have been taught to lead the dogs by grasping the D-ring of the collar and walking forward, never backing up while facing the dog. We also teach them not to pull on a dog that does not want to walk but in our house that is rarely a problem.

-If you have a fenced yard outdoor activities should be monitored carefully until everyone understands how the yard is used. A grey running full speed and a child running full speed make for a little too much excitement when they meet in the middle of the yard.

-Children should not be allowed to help during potentially high stress situations such as nail clipping, tending wounds, removing stitches, giving medication, etc.

-Remember that your grey will probably love your kids toys just as much as they do even if they do have an odd way of showing it. Anything soft or that makes noise will become a chew toy if it is not put out of the dog's reach when your child is done playing with it. This also goes for shoes, crayons, books, and just about anything else your grey sees your child playing with because if the kids like it there must be something fun about it.

Once your kids become greyhound savvy you'll be amazed at how helpful they can be with daily care and your grey will love them for the special attention.

Williams: The Golden Rule applies to dogs too

By Laurie C. Williams, CPDT
For The Stafford County Sun
Published: November 25, 2008

Here are the facts:

  • According to the Journal of the American Medical Association there are almost 800,000 dog bites each year. One out of every six are serious enough to require medical attention.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the odds that a dog bite victim will be a child are 3 to 1.
  • Severe injuries from dog bites are highest for children ages 5 to 9 years of age.
  • Three quarters of dogs involved in bite incidents belong to the victim's family or friend.
  • The majority of dog attacks (61%) happen at home or in a familiar place.

  • These are indeed sobering statistics that demonstrate dog bites are a serious health risk to children in particular.

    First we should examine why dogs bite in the first place.

    Most dogs that have been trained and well socialized are safe, reliable companions, but even a friendly dog might bite if threatened, hurt or afraid. Some dogs resource guard, or are protective of, toys, food and spaces, and if another dog or human comes near they might grow or even try to bite.

    I've found that people often ignore, sugar coat or make excuses when their dog displays these behaviors, finding it "cute" when Fluffy growls when you try to move her off the couch.

    There's nothing cute about it. Resource guarding is a potentially serious behavior problem that should be addressed immediately. We need to remember that a growl is a warning a dog gives to let us know that a bite could very well occur.

    An unsuspecting child walking by a dog with this issue can become the recipient of an attack just because he or she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Dogs bite for other reasons as well. Sick, injured and elderly dogs tend to have a lower tolerance for pain or just be irritable. Playing with their paws or even petting them in a sensitive or sore part of their body could easily set them off.

    A dog that is overly excited or hasn't learned proper bite inhibition can injure a person by mistake, especially when playing. I see this often with dogs that have been taken away from their litters too soon.

    One of the things a dog learns from his dam and litter mates is how to develop a soft mouth when playing. If you watch a litter of puppies you will hear them yelp when another puppy bites a little too hard. The offender learns not to bite down as hard. This is a very important lesson.

    Puppies taken away before seven or eight weeks of age may not have had enough time to learn this control.

    I always find it sad when a child is afraid of dogs, but I also find it potentially dangerous when a child unabashedly approaches any dog and hasn't learned how to be cautious and respectful with dogs as well. It's important for parents to teach children that, though dogs can be fun playmates, they are also living, breathing animals that should be respected.

    I cringe whenever I see children crawling over, stepping on and generally overcrowding the family dog. Even though Fluffy "doesn't seem to mind," this sends the wrong message to a child that a dog is an inanimate object with no feelings.

    Although Fluffy doesn't mind now, there is no guarantee she won't grow tired of it one day, or be sore one day, or sick or whatever the case may be. If by chance Fluffy were to nip the child, then of course it's Fluffy who is a bad dog! Well, I say poor Fluffy.

    I say that she was set up and put in an unfair, unreasonable situation that was bound to go wrong at some point.

    Many dog bites are preventable. In a study conducted by the European Journal of Pediatrics in 2003, it was found that a single dog bite prevention lesson incorporated into a regular school day can dramatically reduce high risk behaviors toward unfamiliar dogs in both very young (kindergarten) and middle-school-aged children.

    As parents and caregivers we shouldn't rely on our children learning this in school. It's our responsibility to teach them to observe some simple rules of safety around not only their own dogs, but other dogs they encounter. Such as:

    Never tease, pull the tail or ears, poke the eyes, throw things at, try to ride, climb over, or step on a dog.

    Never touch or play with a dog while he is eating or sleeping

    Never take a dog's toy or bone away when he is playing with it

    Never approach a strange or stray dog - EVER

    Never stare directly into a dog's eyes

    Always ask the owner first before petting a dog

    Always let a dog sniff your hand first, then pet him UNDER his chin or on his chest rather than on top of his head

    Always go tell an adult if you see a stray dog walking on the street

    Always treat a dog and all animals the way you'd want to be treated

    Dogs are our friends, family members and companions and should always be treated with kindness, consideration, respect and care.

    Stafford resident Laurie C. Williams is a certified pet dog trainer and local business owner. She appeared on the television reality show "Greatest American Dog" with her Maltese, Andrew.

    Take the Bark Busters Buddy Dog Safety Quiz and see how dog savvy your kids have become.

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    Leigha taking Richie for a walk around the house.