Could you suggest training tips and/or a good book on teaching children how to properly interact with animals, particularly dogs? I have a nine-year-old Labrador — a beautiful soul — and a six-month-old daughter. I aim to teach my daughter to be kind to animals and realise the benefits of forming close bonds with her pets. This is very important to me, as I believe that a person who is kind to animals is a nicer person all round. Do you know of any good books available to help me teach my daughter (not my dog)?
– Kristie Gaudion, via email
Dr Kersti Seksel says: Well done for wanting to teach your daughter how to interact nicely with your dog and other animals. These are great skills for her to develop. Please keep in mind that, developmentally, there are some limits to educating your daughter. Overall, children under five years of age are very poor at reading and understanding dog body language. Veterinarians and paediatricians recommend directly supervising children 10 years and under with dogs. If you are unable to directly supervise them, they should be physically separated behind a door or baby gate.
A great resource to help you read canine body language and that also has simple rules for dogs and kids is a pamphlet available for free from your veterinarian, Polite Puppies, Delightful Dogs. Most books on the market are aimed at preparing the dog for the baby rather than vice versa! Tell your Dog you’re Pregnant, by Dr Lewis Kirkham, is a great book. You may also find the information on www.thebluedog.org helpful. This is an interactive project for helping teach children about dogs.
Other books that are worth looking at are Kendall Shepherd’s The Canine Commandments, and Living with Kids and Dogs… Without Losing Your Mind: A Paren’t’s Guide to Controlling the Chaos by Colleen Pelar.
With preparation, dogs and kids can live happily together. It sounds like your dog and your daughter are off to a great start.