We all love the thought of a picture-perfect family portrait that includes our wonderful children and the adoring family dog. Unfortunately, dogs and children will not always get along as ideally as we would like. First, they both have to learn ways to live together side by side. After that, their bond will only grow stronger as the years go by. It will take a bit of work to make sure your kids understand how to respect and care for the family dog, but you’ll end up with a loving family unit that loves each other very much in the end.

Here are some great tips from our discussion with Dave Miller of Cozy Crates that will help out when you want everyone in the household, including the dogs, to get along.

Respecting their dining area

Everyone wants to eat in peace, even the family dog. The first important step is to find a quiet spot in your home for your dog to eat and drink. Once you have established this area, talk to your kids about what to do when they see their pet eating. Explain that they need to treat their dog the same way they would a friend or family member by giving them time and space to enjoy their meal. Explain the dangers of coming between a dog and his food, even just to pet him. Make sure they know never to interrupt a dog when he is eating or drinking.

Respecting their personal space

Your dog should also have a place to go when he needs time away from the family. Just like humans, canines can get stressed out and anxious from too much activity. If you have children in your home, then you already know how crazy your household can get at times. Your dog needs a clean, quiet, and comfortable spot to go when he needs some space, preferably in another room away from the family. Then, explain to your kids that dogs need time to recharge after they have been playing and eating. It’s a great time to talk about the need for personal space for both humans AND dogs.

Touching do’s and don’ts

Children, especially very young toddlers, often see dogs as just another toy they can do whatever they wish with. However, dogs have boundaries, the same way we do. Remind your kids that they should never do anything to a dog that they wouldn’t like done to them. For example, a sleeping dog should never be prodded or shaken awake simply because your child wants to play with them. Your children should also understand that your pet isn’t a toy, especially if you own a big dog. Kids who climb on a dog to ride them “like a horse” risk seriously injuring the animal by their behavior. They need to understand that this type of play can be detrimental to the health of the dog.

If your child is the type to enjoy giving hugs and kisses to humans, then he or she will likely want to do the same to their pet. However, dogs aren’t always thrilled with being held and kissed, especially if the dog had a difficult or abusive past. Your child should never put their face too close to the dog’s face, even if they are normally a friendly and happy animal. Respect also means no pulling, poking, or yanking any part of the dog’s body. Children should never wrestle with a dog, either. Even the best-behaved dog will often get overstimulated from too much playtime, causing him to behave in a rougher manner than usual.

Teach your child how to properly show affection

It’s never too early to teach young children how to pet and care for a dog. Show them how to pet the dog, whether it is on the back or the belly. Some dogs like to have the base of their tails scratched. Most dogs enjoy being softly groomed with a brush. This is also the perfect time to show your kids the proper way to groom their pets. The more gentleness your child shows your dog, the better friends they will become.

A great way to teach your dogs and kids to interact well together is by proactive play. One fun game your kids can play with their dogs is any kind of retrieving game. Let your child throw an object, such as a ball or other dog toy, and allow the dog to retrieve it. Teach the dog to drop the object-do not allow your child to remove it from their mouth themselves. Your kids can also play hide and seek games with the dog to become more comfortable together. Tug-of-war games are not the best choice in the beginning, as dogs can get over-stimulated and may accidentally nip or bite trying to grab the object.

Include your kids in the dog training

Including your children in the training of a new dog is a wonderful way for them to learn how to respect and care for an animal. You can have them help you as you train your dog to walk on a leash, use the bathroom, stop barking, and learn tricks. They can assist you with the grooming needs of your dog, from brushing their fur to trimming their nails to bathing them in the bathtub. Of course, the age of your child will depend on the amount of true help they can give! But it’s never too early to introduce your child to the care and well-being of an animal.

Know your pet and always supervise the situation

You should always follow two important rules- know your dog and supervise him or her when your kids are around. Your child shouldn’t be alone with your dog until you are 100% positive of their behaviors. Always remind your children to respect the rules when being around their dogs. As a result, your kids will develop a loving bond with your pet that will last for many years to come. Of course, your dog needs to learn his own set of rules when you have kids in the home. In the meantime, talk to your child about how to respectfully interact with their pet and ways they can care for him to strengthen their bond. It takes time and patience, but you’ll all enjoy the end result!

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