The nugget. (Sisters, Or.) 1994-current, March 01, 2017, Page 10, Image 10

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017 The Nugget Newspaper, Sisters, Oregon
Jodi Schneider McNamee
Introducing dogs
and children
Some of us have a fai-
rytale image of a child and
his dog. Think of Lassie and
Timmy, Dorothy and Toto,
or even Snoopy and Charlie
You may have memories
of your own cherished pet.
But are children and dogs a
perfect match? It depends.
Dogs can be a source of
unconditional love and a
wonderful companion for
your kids, and a dog can help
teach responsibility, empa-
thy, foster self-esteem and
promote physical activity.
As of 2010, over 45 per-
cent of households in the
United States owned at least
one dog, making canines
the most popular family pet
in the country. Children are
naturally drawn to dogs, and
many dogs seem to genu-
inely enjoy interacting with
Dogs also require a lot of
work. And some breeds are
more suited to families with
children than others. When
choosing the right dog for
your family, you need to
think about the dog’s size
and temperament, as well as
your family’s lifestyle and
allergy concerns.
Some experts recommend
waiting until a child is five
(or school age) before bring-
ing a dog into the family.
And don’t assume that
your child or children will
do the work your new furry
friend will require. This
responsibility will ulti-
mately fall to you. Discuss
the responsibilities of being
a pet parent with your kids.
Make sure your child under-
stands the basic care a pet
requires. You will want to
discuss feeding and groom-
ing as well as cleaning up
after Rover. You will also
need to select a dog that will
fit into your family’s energy
level and living space. In
other words, if you are an
active, outdoor-oriented
family who enjoys run-
ning and exercising, a high-
energy breed would be best
for you. If your family lives
a quieter sedentary lifestyle,
consider a breed that doesn’t
require several walks a day.
Bringing young children
and young dogs together can
lead to problems. Both need
a lot of care and patience,
and puppies are prone to
playful nipping and scratch-
ing and may not be used to
children. By school age,
children learn empathy, but
they still may have trouble
interpreting a dog’s body
language. So, they may not
recognize that a dog’s growl
or stiffened posture means
“back off.”
When visiting the adop-
tion agency, bring your kids
with you. You will be able to
see whether the child’s and
the dogs’ personalities are a
good match. There are many
wonderful shelter dogs look-
ing for a good home. Canine
rescue organizations go out
of their way to screen dogs
and families for the appro-
priate fit.
Remember that little kids’
hands are often unsteady, or
move very quickly — two
things that can frighten a
small dog or make him feel
like his safety is threatened.
And a very large-breed
dog can easily knock over
a young child. Maybe a
medium-sized dog might be
your best option.
Shy or introverted chil-
dren may enjoy a more inde-
pendent dog that does not
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need constant entertainment,
while more outgoing kids
may favor a dog that follows
them around.
Then there are some dogs
that just don’t love kids.
They may have had little or
no exposure to children, or,
worse, a bad history with
them. A dog who has been
taunted or teased by a child
in the past may be unable to
trust again.
Hopefully the shelter or
adoption agency will have
some background informa-
tion on the dog you and your
family select to bring home.
The number-one precau-
tion for kids and dogs is to
supervise at all times.
Author, dog behavior
counselor and trainer Brian
Kilcommons sums it up best:
“Leaving a dog alone with
a child is like leaving two
toddlers in the same room,
one with a pair of scissors.”
Eventually something can go
wrong. Even the best trained
dog in the world could lash
out if hurt or startled.
Once you bring Rover
home, teach your child how
to interact with him.
Show your child how to
offer her closed fist for your
new furry friend to sniff,
then gently stroke the dogs
head and neck, avoiding
sensitive areas such as ears,
tail, feet, and belly. Explain
that poking, squeezing, or
pulling at the dog isn’t OK.
Instruct your child never
to put her face near a dog’s
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face. The risk is always too
Never touch the dog
when he is eating, chewing,
or sleeping. And avoid rough
play. This will encourage
Teach your child appro-
priate ways to play with your
dog using safe toys. Involve
older children in caring for
the family dog. Seven to
8-year-olds can replenish
food and water bowls and
possibly 10-year-olds can
help with grooming, prac-
tice basic commands, or
interact in a game of fetch.
Depending on the dog’s
size and leash manners, an
older child can take the dog
out for short walks. This is
a great way for children to
start learning responsibility
for other living things.
If your new dog shows
repeated aggressive tenden-
cies toward your children,
seek professional veterinary
advice immediately. Left
untreated, these problems
will only intensify with time.
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