Thursday, October 24, 2013

Understanding Dog Dynamics

Dogs and Children
By Crystal Wakeman
Animal Rescue World

Humans and Dogs have a history that goes back 100,000 years. This is when scientists say the DNA from domestic dogs and wolves was split.

 Somewhere in these 100,000 years we have forgotten that dogs are not humans. We have also taught our children to humanize dogs.

I believe this is the reason for countless misunderstandings between dogs and children.
 Unfortunately these miscommunications between dogs and humans often result in death for the dog!

I have heard it a million times,

 “the dog bit our kid all of the sudden with no provocation, he turned on us.“

It is highly unlikely that the dog bit with no warning. It is just not a warning that a human might notice. In the world we live in we have lost the natural instincts and language of our natural world.

When we decide to bring a dog into our home we must understand it is time to tap into our instincts, and learn a little bit about dog behavior. A dog is only a dog, they do not understand English or a lot of our behaviors. 

A household can be a confusing, scary place for a dog. We need to show them we are stable enough to run the pack. If a dog believes he/she is to run the pack (the family) we are putting them in charge of a world they do not understand. 

This is totally unfair to the dog. If we let them lead they will become scared and unstable because they do not understand our human households. 

Never introduce a dog to a child until you are sure the dog understands humans are above them in the pack. Make sure the dog will listen to you no matter the situation. If your dog is unreliable wait until you put in the work to teach them you have running the house covered (not the dog’s job).

Make sure their temperament is stable enough to be around children. Last but not least the kids need to know appropriate behavior around the dog. This does not mean shield the dog from kids all together, it means choose the proper time and environment to introduce the dog to children so everyone is safe and secure. 

The first thing to understand is that we should never greet a dog by running up and patting their heads or baby talking. The best habit to get into is to ignore the dog until the dog is calm for at least 10 min.

In some cases you should even wait until the dog stays calm for longer than 10 min, but I will use the 10 min rule as an average. If the dog starts to get worked up (hyper) after you acknowledge them ignore the dog again and add 5 minutes to the original time every time you have to repeat this process.

When we greet our dogs instead of them greeting us we are electing them leader of the pack! Which puts dogs in an uncomfortable position, they feel that they are responsible for running our household!

It is like putting a banker into an operating room and expecting exceptional performance. It is just not going to happen. It is no wonder why there are so many unstable dogs out there. 

The second thing to understand is it is a terrible idea to pet or acknowledge a dog that is an unstable state of mind. Humans often comfort each other by giving hugs or pats on the back however when we do this to our dogs we reinforce a negative state of mind.

The best thing to do with an unstable dog is to ignore them until they get more comfortable. We can use tools to encourage them to move forward however a dog will not move forward if we are reinforcing instability by petting them and putting lots of treats and toys in their face while they scared or unsure. 

Walking our dogs is incredibly important and is a great way to show our dogs all humans in the home are the leaders. I suggest an adult works with their dog before adding children to the walk.

Before you even put a leash on your dog they need to be calm. The leash going on to a dogs collar is a reward. If you reward a hyper exited dog you are setting the mood for the entire walk.

After the leash is on your dog will typically get exited again. Do not move forward until the dog is calm. Every time the dog walks in front of you walk back to the starting point. The dog will get the point, we do not move forward unless I am calm. 

It does not matter if you only walk a couple of blocks in an hour. This exercise is a mental work out for your pooch. Every day your four-legged friend will go further and further until they only follow you. 

Another important thing to keep in mind is that dogs are very aware of how everyone is feeling around them. If you are in a bad state of mind your dog will sense it and try to take over while you are unable to lead. 

Humans are the only animals that follow instability.

Never work a dog when you are having a bad day. Dogs can smell how you felt hours before you even come around. 

The more calm and confident that we are the better our dogs will listen. 

A good way we can test ourselves on our mood and what messages we are sending to our dogs is our body language. Are we walking like leaders? You cannot lead with a slumped over posture. 

We should walk with our heads high, chest out, and relax, dogs can see and smell tension from a mile away. While working with dogs we should always ask ourselves what message are we sending to our dogs through our mental state and body language.

Whenever we feed our four-legged friends it is a good idea to show them all humans in the house eat first. This is an activity for the whole family, kids included. This can be accomplished by simply eating a cracker in front of the dog before he/she eats. 

This should never turn into teasing our dog, or the whole process will lose it’s meaning. We also set the bowl of food on the ground and make the dog sit or down while the dog focuses on the human in charge before he/she gets to eat. The dog must also be calm, and not hovering over the bowl. If the dog is sitting but not calm, wait until the dog is calm.

Once you we are sure we have a dog’s trust and respect we can introduce the dog to children. The first rule is to never allow the dog to invade the child’s space uninvited. 

They need to keep a respectable distance until they are calm and called to the child. Then they will learn to be calm around children while they are in a submissive state of mind. It is a good idea to include children in training and behavioral conditioning activities.

Just as the adults are to ignore the dog for ten minutes the children must too. This shows our dogs the kids are above them in the pack. We have to be aware of our children’s behavior. If they cannot follow the rules they will not be included in the activities.

The children must be disciplined enough to follow the rules. Unstable unruly children will make unstable unruly dogs. Introducing dogs to children is a positive thing when the environment is not chaotic.

Pick a good time and place for this process.

Some dogs are more sensitive than others. It is best to judge each situation differently with each individual dog. Some dogs may not be able to be around children, but I would say most can with the proper introduction and environment. 

Never introduce a dog to a child who does not recognize you as the leader. Any dog being introduced to children should be even-tempered and ready. Everything written here is based on my experience successfully introducing dogs and children, however these are suggestions, if you are unsure consult a behaviorist near you.

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