Help! Puppy and Toddlers
My sister's two year old twins will be with us this weekend. Can you offer some tips on how we can help our pup behave around kids this age? He's met them before and things start out fine, but inevitably he ends up getting way too excited and mouthy/nippy. I know it's important for him to socialize with kids this age, so I don't want to constantly keep them separated, but we end up getting frustrated with him because gets worked up and nippy (even when the toddlers are just quietly playing). Do you have any suggestions?
Any advice would be much appreciated.
It's great that you realize how important it is to socialize your pup to young kids! Many people believe that exposure for socialization's sake is good enough, but inappropriate exposure and interactions between dogs and kids can be just as problematic in the long run, as no socialization at all!
You mention that things start out fine but inevitably he gets too wound up and mouthy - which reminds me of one of my favorite sayings: Predictable Means Preventable. When problems are predictable, you're in a perfect position to prevent more of the same by being proactive - rather than reactive - after it's already too late!
In a nutshell, interaction between your dog and the toddlers should be appropriate and brief - ending before he's gotten so wound up. This link http://dogsandstorks.blogspot.com/ ;takes you to a blog on the topic of supervision, and how to be proactive to prevent problems, rather than reactive, which is the key to healthy dogs/kids relationships!
So, when interactions between he and the toddler/s are going well, let them interact for a few minutes, then call him away with a Kong and have him chill out in his crate (off limits to the children!) --before he gets wound up and nippy. This is an example of what the blog (link above) refers to as "Proactive Passive Supervision." Your dog can be in his crate, or lying on his dog bed behind a baby gate - either of which are also known as a "success zones" - aptly named because he's hanging out calmly and happily in a space away from access to the children (and vice versa!) where he's prevented from becoming too wound up because things have gone on too long. This is an important concept for people to practice with dogs of any age around children, but especially with young dogs like yours. At his age, it's not realistic to expect him to exhibit much (or any!) self-control around toddlers, so practicing these supervision and "success zone" exercises will help him learn! As he and the children grow up, they'll be able to interact for longer periods of time, with less likelihood of problems developing, or continuing!
One last thought. Successful relationships between kids and dogs isn't just about the dog's behavior. Children also need to learn how to behave appropriately around dogs, and the earlier they learn the better. Here is another good link, that includes video clips of children allowed to (and even encouraged to!) interact with the family dog in completely inappropriate, and dangerous ways. The children are at great risk, but so is the dog when s/he's finally communicates that he's had enough! In scenarios like the ones you'll see in the videos, the parents are oblivious and the dog is the one who'd take the blame for an unfortunate incident! http://doggonesafe.com/Baby_Grows_Up
For even more articles & links on building healthy relationships between kids & dogs, including safety and bite prevention information, Click here.
Thanks for writing and I hope this helps!
Lisa Patrona, Dip. CBST, CPDT-KA, ACDBC, AABP-CDT