When we have dogs and children in our homes we sometimes aim for too much with their relationship. We want them to be best friends, we want them to do everything together.
We expect too much.
We expect our dog to know how to act around a tiny human, we expect them to understand that their shrieks and cries aren't anything to worry about, we expect them to understand what are human toys and what are dog toys.
We expect children to know to use gentle hands around dogs, we expect them to leave a dog that is sleeping or eating, we expect them to know not to climb or stand on a dog.
Start lowering your expectations to having them co-exisiting together. Being in the same room, but not actually interacting. Help them slowly learn about one another, while they are both calm. Start doing simple activities that involve both the child and dog, but make sure you listen to any cues that either one of them doesn't want to do it.
Some easy activity examples:
a short walk - attach a second lead to the handle of your dog's normal lead. This means your child can't accidentally pull or apply pressure to your dog's lead. It also means that if your child no longer wants to hold the lead and just drops it, your dog is still attached. Keep a look out for your dog constantly monitoring what the child is doing, it could show the dog's discomfort with the activity.
highchair fun - letting your child drop dog safe food items from their highchair for your dog to eat is a fun activity for both. I often save this until the end of meal times when theres usually already food on the floor so the dog has focus on the floor, and then interacting with child for food is an added bonus for the dog.
fetch - start playing fetch with your dog and then when your dog drops the ball for you, pass it to your child for them to throw. Occasionally give your child a go at throwing the ball. Please ensure your dog returns the toy to you rather than your child trying to take the toy off of the dog. If your dog chooses to end the game then that is fine, same with if your child doesn't want to throw the ball. It may be a good idea to have two of the same ball/toy so if your child doesn't want to play with the dog anymore but keeps the ball then you still have a second one to continue the game with the dog.
I adore seeing the relationship developing between my two little girls and my dog Kai
The biggest and most important aspect of their relationship has been the no pressure part. There is no pressure to interact, both child and dog have the choice to say no.
The interesting part is that now they're not being asked to interact, they're choosing to. They have a relationship that has been built out of mutual trust and learning about each other slowly and at their own pace.
In the photo for this post Kai was asked to come lie down and he chose to lie where he is. Would the picture be more perfect if he was a bit further back and in line with the girls? Sure, but this photo is all about his choice to be close. The girls can still touch him so they're happy, but also everyone has the ability to move away from each other and stop the interaction, without having to confront one another.
What other easy activities do you get your children and dogs to do together?