Let me come right out and say it, my dog is not Lassie.
Not even a little bit. Not. Even. Close. But she is mine, and I love her to distraction, even if she is naughty, even when she barks like a savage beast at people & frightens the life out of them. She’s still my baby, and part of my family. We’ve gone to puppy school, we’ve gone to manners, we’ve gone to agility (and still do, its our ‘special time’, just Pips & me) and yet, she still fails to be a super dog. But thats OK, it just illustrates that everyone, people and dogs,are individuals. That our imperfections make us who we are and make us beautiful. Most dogs are not super dogs, most are just ordinary dogs, and many have some kind of hang ups or issues, mostly our own doing sadly, and often just because that is our own perception- they’re just being dogs, humans are the ones who reckon bones should not be buried in the yard nor shoes chewed by bored canines. And kids are the same, unique individuals, with their own personalty quirks and short attention spans.
So, to be brief: things I have learned from dogs about kids
keep it short
keep it fun
keep it simple
finish on a high, with them wanting more, rather than pushing too long and losing the fun or waiting for a mistake.
Be patient (even tho some days this takes superhuman effort, I promise that it will be worth it).
Repeat to remember (boring, but true)- let them practice new skills.
Give them the gift of time. Time to be kids, time to dawdle, time to run, time to climb, time to draw, sing or dance, time to get frustratingly messy & wreck all your clean washing.
listen to them- and I’m not just talking about words, I’m talking about body language and expression, if they look uncomfortable, or are clingy, take a moment to ask them if they’re OK. IF they need you, then give them you, if your kid is clingy, its probably not likely that ignoring them will make them magically independent, it will probably just make them more upset & escalate a bad mood. Remember, they are all different, just because one person’s kids is outgoing & doesn’t fuss on their own doesn’t mean yours has to be as well.
Make sure you schedule in ‘special time’. It doesn’t need to be a lot, but make sure they know that they will have your undivided attention for a period of time, and make that time FUN! Let them do the choosing of activity, clothes (who cares if the go out in their batman PJ’s, I mean, all the kids will be so jealous!) etc.
Don’t think that ‘toughing it out’ will work, kids (and dogs) are all different, while some might learn & embrace changes, others will develop fear responses, which is not good.
Reward based training does work more effectively than punishment based training. And I’m not talking treats & toys, I’m talking enthusiasm, cuddles & praise.
Praise the effort, not the person- don’t go around saying your kid (or dog) is more special or clever than everyone else, just tell them that they did a REALLY great job and that you are proud of their efforts. Even when they don’t quite hit the mark, encourage them to keep trying, and that their efforts are worthwhile. After all, if someone you admire tells you you are doing something wrong and not encouraging you, you are probably more likely to give up before you get it.
Everyone needs quiet time sometimes, and everyone needs time to yell and run about. Everyone gets stressed out, overwhelmed or hyperactive sometimes, its how we show them how to cope with it that’s important. Give them a chill out zone.
Give them lots of cuddles and make sure they know how much you love them. Always.
NEVER leave kids & dogs alone together. I don’t care how good your kid is, or how good your dog is, it only takes a small miscalculation and a microsecond for an accident to happen, a step on the tail or paw, a finger in the eye, a pencil in the ear and it all ends in tears, and sadly, often ends permanently for the dog. Just don’t people! TEACH your kids how to behave around dogs, and teach them to LISTEN to dogs by watching their body language and respecting their boundaries.
And I guess we should learn to do that with our kids as well, treat them with respect, and they will learn to treat others with respect.
And finally, it is your duty and your PRIVILEGE to teach your children (furry or not) how to navigate this great big world. Nobody was ‘born knowing’ how to behave, or what the rules are, that’s a Mummy & Daddy’s job, not a kids job.