I was merrily scrolling through Facebook recently when I saw an old school friend asking for some advice about her children and new puppy. I mentioned a couple of the brilliant online resources that are freely available (I will include links for them all within this blog) and also what to look for in a trainer, should they want to attend. The concerning problem was the amount of advice given to use pretty dangerous methods (i.e. fear based, dominance theory). Sadly, these resources are also freely available -albeit in the form of YouTube videos only- but I was made aware once again how knowing what to look for when being given advice is so important.
The main things I try and get across when talking about this is;
- Don’t ever use a trainer who asks you to do things that you don’t feel comfortable doing. This isn’t to say they are bad but actually, I think our gut instinct is pretty spot on and we should listen to it more. If a trainer asks you to do something and your response is one of unease, then you really don’t have to do it and instead just make a mental note not to go back. I refer back to the incident I saw with a puppy at ‘puppy classes’ once whose owner was being taught how to correctly yank the puppies slip lead!
- Ask locals if they’ve heard of them (again this isn’t a good or a bad thing) but other dog owners can offer you very insightful information about what type of trainer they are.
- Do they have the educational background for what they are teaching? You really want people to have an excellent level of knowledge about learning theory and indeed behaviour. It should mean that they teach you how to train your dog using ethical and humane training methods.
So with regards to children and dogs here are some things that could really help. The Kennel Club has a Safe and Sound Scheme which has lots of resources for both parents and teachers. There is also The Blue Dog project which again has plenty of free information. There is a book called ‘Babies, Kids and Dogs’ which you can get on amazon.
It is also really worthwhile as a parent learning about canine body language. Our dogs are experts at giving us signals of when they are uncomfortable, we are just not that good at reading these signals sometimes. We have an evening talk that discusses canine body language and how to recognise the subtle signals. A very wise lady once told me (and its been my mantra ever since) ‘If you listen to the whispers, they don’t need to shout’. And its so very true! To find out more about talks click here.
There is no reason why having dogs and children can’t be an amazing experience for all parties involved but it does take a bit of a proactive approach on our behalf. Both to teach our dogs that children are ok and that we listen to them and help them when they aren’t feeling quite so confident. And to teach our children how to behave around dogs. I have recently become and Aunty (twice) and all of our family dogs have reacted differently to babies in the family. Evie, 15 and elderly, couldn’t care less (in fact I don’t think she has notice!). Peggy, 11 and a bit bonkers, is relaxed and totally not interested in them. Zipper, 5, loves them but in a very gentle way. He is usually pretty near and totally relaxed. Juno, 3, is unsure. She can’t totally work them out but that’s ok. She is under no pressure at all to greet them. Over the past few months she has now become a lot more relaxed around the older one (but again, there is still no pressure at all on her to interact). My dogs always have their own spaces and they have a very strong history of being able to leave any situation that may make them feel uncomfortable.