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Bringing a dog into a new home is usually a stressful time for all concerned. But that stress can be exacerbated when there are young children involved. While most children love dogs, the combination of boisterous youngsters and nervous animals often causes some serious issues.
One way to ensure your children are attuned to your new dog's sensitivities is to include them in the dog training process. This doesn't just make that all-important transition period easier, it fosters a healthy child-dog relationship from the outset.
To get you started, here are a simple ways you can involve a child in the training of a dog.
Before you do anything, you need to commit to scheduling regular training sessions. Not only that, you must ensure that you're always around to directly supervise your children as they perform training activities. A lot of children enjoy being tactile and robust when playing with dogs. It's important that this enthusiasm doesn't scare (or even injure) the dog. You also need to be sure that your child is rewarding positive behaviors and ignoring negative ones.
Most dogs learn to respond to their name over time. This takes repetition and positive reinforcement. Fortunately, there's no reason why a toddler can be part of this process. If your child can talk, they can play a role. Take your child to one side, and explain what you're trying to do. Tell the child to call the dog's name during scheduled training sessions. Whenever the dog responds, get your child to reward him or her with a treat.
The basic commands in dog training are relatively easy to get across. As long as you're consistent in your approach, getting your dog to sit and stay shouldn't be too difficult. This means you can the process fun and playful with your children.
Arm your child with food-based rewards, and ask them to reward positive behavior that corresponds with the instruction given. For example, get your child to hold the treat over the dog's nose. Then instruct them to gradually move the treat over the dog's head as they say "sit." Hopefully, your dog will naturally rock to a seated position, at which point your child can hand over the treat with some positive contact (stroking etc.).
Explain to your child that training is about repetition and rewarding positive behavior. And hammer home the point that unwanted behaviors shouldn't be punished.
Children often possess a natural desire to care for other living beings. This is why so many youngsters love to play with baby dolls. Harness this desire by getting your child to carry out some specific care duties in the home. For example, there's no reason why (under your supervision) you can't get your child to fill the dog's food and water bowls. Combine these tasks with basic commands you teach the dog (such as "sit" and "stay"), and a bond between child and dog should develop organically over time.
Exercise is an integral part of a healthy doggy lifestyle. Explain to your child why walking the dog is important, and that it requires constant supervision. While you may not want to give your child full control, you can use a secondary leash to create the illusion of taking control. And give your child a specific responsibility during each walk, such as watching for other dogs along the way.
Dogs and children both require a huge amount of supervision and care. But if you can bring them together from day one, they can help each other to learn and develop. Not only that, both will have a very special, lifelong friend.
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