Kids and dogs.  Is there a better combination?  Most of the time, no.  However, you must know your kids, and you must become familiar with dog breeds; that is, the inherent tendencies specific to each breed. Not all breeds and not all dogs are suitable for households with young children. Visit our GROUPS and BREEDS section.

Some pet parents even think of their dogs as big kids in furry suits. Starting out with a puppy or family-oriented rescue dog is generally the best way to go forward while teaching your new furry family member how best to behave and assimilate into your household.

We’ve come so far from the days when dogs lived outside in dog houses and people didn’t necessarily realize that dogs needed socialization, as they generally are social creatures.

Dogs, for the most part, can understand approximately 200 words. When we choose our words carefully, we’ve formed the bases of inter-species communication: We talk, and the dog responds with a particular action. But then again, your dog needs obedience training just as your child learns, first at home, then at school, how to interact with others, and behave properly.

Now I’m going to add another layer of understanding to the mix: child interaction with a dog, particularly a new dog in the household.

“Alpha dog” is a familiar phrase, referring to the pack mentality of dogs, and independently, wolves, who are pack animals as well.  But even as a single dog living in a household, dogs still understand the hierarchy of being pack animals.  There is always one alpha in the household: either the pet parent or the dog. Your tone of voice and body language are most important when establishing dominance. For example: standing taller than your dog, using a louder, more commanding voice when verbally correcting using the word “NO” will help elevate a person to the position of alpha.  Even a child, should learn to do the same. When a child is down on the ground with your puppy, the puppy will consider the child to merely be another canine playmate and treat the child as such. Jumping on, standing on, biting, nipping, pulling clothes, fighting over toys, growling, barking, and inviting actions such as tug of war or chase, are all dog-to-dog activities that your dog will try to initiate with your child. Something as simple as having your child sit on a small stool when playing with your pup will enable your child to stand immediately and say “NO” to the puppy and when the puppy is biting or jumping. As soon as the puppy stops nipping, give the puppy an appropriate dog toy or chew. This is a practice that can be done for 10-15 minutes a few times a day, with adult supervision, of course.

When the pet parent assumes the role of alpha, the highest-ranking member of the group, the dog will become more submissive—that is, take commands without creating problems.

Learning the correct way to correct your dog and teaching your child to do the same will help to reduce unwanted behavior especially directed to the weakest member of your family, your child.  Consistency is the key to success.