Preparing your dog for Fireworks Night

The earlier you start preparing your dog for the bangs and flashes or fireworks night, the easier it will be to help him manage his stress levels on 5th November. In this blog, we look at some techniques to help dogs who hate loud noises.

PS if this is your first fireworks night with your dog – it’s well worth talking to a dog behaviourist well before 5th November so that you can test his reaction in controlled conditions and potentially avoid a stressful Guy Fawkes night.

Fireworks are not the only loud noises to scare dogs

This blog is mainly about fireworks but the techniques we’re talking about can also be applied to other sounds that your dog may not like.

To understand how to unravel a dog’s fear, it’s important to understand what is happening in his body and brain to make him behave is such a distressing way. Once you know the biology behind his behaviour, you can help him manage his anxiety.

Symptoms of fear and anxiety

Signs of anxiety may be subtle or they may be very obvious indeed. If your dog is upset by noises you might see some or all of these symptoms.

  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Yawning
  • Shaking
  • Hiding
  • Pacing
  • Clingy behaviour (following you everywhere, trying to be as physically close as possible)
  • Chewing
  • Barking
  • Losing control of bladder or bowels

Your dog’s subconscious brain has decided that the noise he can hear is a threat to his safety and the brain has told his body to release adrenalin. Adrenalin is the fight or flight hormone. It makes dogs (and humans) feel anxious, afraid and hypersensitive to any change in their environment.

The remedial technique I’m going to helps the dog’s brain react differently to a specific noise. The training goal is to let the subconscious brain be aware of the noise but to associate it with something positive and release dopamine (a happy hormone) instead of adrenaline.

For best results, get help early

Desensitising is a very effective technique IF it’s done in the right way. If it’s rushed or bungled then it can cause more problems than it cures. Please don’t try this until you have spoken to a qualified dog behaviourist.

Starting desensitisation training on 3rd November will not “cure” your dog of his phobias in time for fireworks night. So start early and take expert advice.

What is desensitising?

The nearest analogy I can use for desensitisation in dogs is a therapy commonly used for people with phobias (the biology is very similar).

The patient is encouraged to relax before briefly being exposed to whatever it is that worries him. For example, someone with arachnophobia might be told there is a picture of spider in the next room. Once they are happy with that concept and can relax, the photo is brought closer. As soon as the patient shows any sign of anxiety the picture is taken further away and the patient is encouraged to relax again.

One way to desensitise dogs with noise phobia

There is a very useful phone app for desensitising dogs with noise-phobia.  It’s called “Sound Proof Puppy Training”. You can select a sound and control its volume and duration.

Pick a time when both you and your dog are nicely relaxed – perhaps after a walk. Get the dog engaged in an activity he really loves. Perhaps a game of “hunt the biscuit” or “fetch the ball” and then start the playing the sound at a really low volume.  Many of my doggie clients enjoy a game where their dinner is distributed all around the floor so they have to work for it. They’re so busy searching and eating that they are almost oblivious to anything else. If you are stuck for ideas, your behaviourist will have lots of suggestions for activities to keep your dog’s brain busy.

It’s important that the dog can hear the fireworks sound but that the volume is sufficiently low that he’s not upset by it. Whilst he’s busy doing fun stuff, the dog’s subconscious brain will be aware of the sound but his conscious brain will override any fear because he’s concentrating on having a great time.

If all goes well and the dog is not at all stressed, you can try again tomorrow, with the volume turned up slightly.

It takes a long time and many, many repetitions for a dog’s subconscious brain to learn to ignore a trigger that was once perceived as scary. The process cannot be rushed and I can’t stress enough that it’s best done with expert supervision. After all, every dog is different – what works for one might be distressing for another. A dog behaviourist can help you tailor the programme to suit your dog.

Tools for managing anxiety on fireworks night

If you are not confident that you dog is completely desensitised to fireworks, there are some tools that you can use to help him cope. You might want to use them anyway – I’m all for a belt and braces approach to anxiety.

  • Ask the vet about sedative sprays or tablets that might help keep him calm
  • On the day, get him relaxed before the fireworks start: A long walk, a training session in the garden, followed by a stuffed Kong or a snuffle mat will all help to get his brain in a good place before the fireworks start.
  • Take him out for toileting just before the sun sets but keep him on the lead in case the bangs start earlier than you expected.
  • Keep calm yourself. If you are anxious the dog will sense it and probably mirror your emotions.
  • Close the curtains; It will hide the flashes and maybe muffle the sound a little
  • If he will wear a harness or a cooling coat, he’ll probably be happy in a thunder jacket. It’s like a close-fitting coat that helps him feel more secure. It’s the canine equivalent of swaddling a newborn baby.
  • If you can distract him with games and toys do so – but don’t take it personally if he doesn’t feel like engaging. If you’ve ever suffered with anxiety yourself you’ll understand what he’s going through.
  • Make sure he has a safe place and don’t disturb him if he chooses to hide. He’s doing what he needs to do to feel calm
  • Watch him carefully to make sure he hasn’t decided to chew electrical wires etc

Getting help with noise phobias

Whatever sounds or noises are upsetting your dog, it’s going to be almost impossible to avoid them for his whole life. So you need to take action to save the poor dog from living with anxiety or from becoming aggressive through fear.

Dog behaviourists are highly trained and very good at helping dog owners to manage all kinds of fears and phobias in their pets.

If your dog is afraid of fireworks, traffic noises or any other unavoidable sounds, get in touch today to find out how the team at CK9 can help your pet to enjoy his life to the full.

Contact CK9  https://www.ck9training.co.uk/contact

You may also be interested in

How do I stop my dog behaving badly? https://www.ck9training.co.uk/blog/how-do-i-stop-my-dog-behaving-badly/

Coping with behavioural changes in adolescent dogs https://www.ck9training.co.uk/blog/help-my-puppy-has-turned-into-a-rebel/

What’s involved in a dog behavioural consultation? https://www.ck9training.co.uk/dog-behaviour-consultations/


How do I stop my dog behaving badly?

In this blog we’re looking at impulse control. When your dog is too boisterous, too noisy or just can’t resist chasing cats, carefully managed impulse control training can really help stop your dog behaving badly.

Common problems that may be helped by impulse control training include:

  • Barking too much or too often
  • Chasing cats/bikes/wildlife
  • Jumping up to say hello
  • Stealing food from plates/hands/work surfaces
  • Barking in the car
  • Barging through doors
  • Humping
  • Being rude to other dogs or people

Why is my dog behaving badly?

There are dozens of reasons that dogs do the things they do. Some doggie behaviours are instinctive. They are perfectly acceptable in doggy society, they might also be welcomed in working dogs. But for pet dogs living alongside humans, those behaviours are inappropriate.

Some unwanted behaviours stem from fear or anxiety. Adolescent dogs often go through periods of behaving badly; sometimes an experience earlier in the dog’s life has actually taught it to behave in a certain way.

What I can tell you, is that it’s never too late to start re-training your dog. All you need is a good understanding of why he is behaving badly, and a consistent but kind approach to resolving the problem.

So what could be triggering that unwanted behaviour?

Breed

Your dog’s breed is no excuse for bad behaviour but it may be the reason why he does the things he does. Throughout the centuries, man has been selectively breeding dogs that can help us in certain ways.

The border collie for example was bred to help herd farm animals, a working collie is required to run fast, work long days and have lots of energy. It’s natural for him to weave around behind you and maybe nip at your heels if he thinks you’re going in the wrong direction. He might also be a high energy dog that needs to be busy all day long.

Sight hounds such as greyhounds and wolfhounds were developed for hunting down rabbits. If they see something rabbit-like moving, their instinct is to chase and kill it. Unfortunately in their eyes, there’s little difference between a pet cat and a wild rabbit. Chasing cats comes naturally to these guys.

Terriers were bred to be ratters. They’re bold and fearless, will fight back if they are cornered and just love to chase, dig and destroy. That’s what they are hardwired to do and it’s what makes them such courageous little characters.

For some breeds, impulse control involves helping them find a suitable outlet for their natural behaviour so that they are less likely to get into trouble.

Could your dog’s lifestyle be contributing to his bad behaviour?

Many of us think of dogs as family members and very often the dog is a bit like the child of the family. Somebody prepares his food, shops for him, organises his day and provides entertainment. What do children do when they are bored? They ignore the rules and behave impulsively.

So if humans who have lack of either physical exercise or mental stimulation (or both) are more likely to act on impulse, it’s possible that dogs are too.  Dogs are intelligent creatures – that’s why we generally build stronger relationships with our canine companions that we do with goldfish. They NEED to use their bodies and their brains – and if their people don’t create an outlet for their energy, they’ll do it themselves.

Anxiety

Not all unwanted doggy behaviours stem from boredom. Some is caused by anxiety. It’s important to be able to distinguish between the two because the remedial training for anxious dogs is very different to the training for a confident but bored dog. Get it wrong and you can make the situation much worse and possibly put the dog (or yourself) in danger.

That’s where working with a qualified dog behaviourist is important. Dog behaviourists understand canine body language. We are trained can tell the difference between a dog who is barking for the sheer joy of making a noise, and a nervous dog who barking to protect himself.

Physical health

My first piece of advice to anyone who is worried about their dog’s behaviour is to take him to the vet for a very thorough examination. Check that the dog is not in pain, doesn’t have a neurological condition that might affect behaviour and that his endocrine system is in balance. It’s worth asking about diet too, sometimes a small nutritional tweak can make a big difference to energy and anxiety levels.

How to stop your dog behaving badly

Understand the underlying cause:

Try to work out what the root cause of the bad behaviour might be. Visit the vet and have a consultation with a dog behaviourist. Study your dog carefully. What triggers the behaviour? What do you think the dog is trying to achieve by it?

Set your objectives

Think about what you would prefer your dog to do instead of the unwanted behaviour? For example, maybe instead of barging through the door in front of you, you’d like him to sit down and wait until you invite him through the door?

We dog trainers have a technical term that we use a lot in impulse control. “Mutually exclusive behaviour”. For example, a dog can’t barge through a door if he is sitting down.

Work with the dog’s instincts

It’s hard to override a dog’s natural instincts, so if there is a way to work with them, not against them, life will be easier for everyone. How you satisfy your dog’s need to hunt or chase without allowing him to terrorise the neighbourhood cats? Is there another activity that will stimulate his brain, relieve frustration and give him the feelgood factor? Agility perhaps? Scentwork? Gundog training?

Find a way to encourage better behaviour

Think about how you will train your dog to abandon his bad behaviour and adopt good habits instead?. For this it is a good idea to gain a really good understanding of how dogs learn. By working with an expert, you can modify your dog’s behaviour for the long term.

If he’s acting on impulse, that behaviour is self-rewarding. eg chasing cats makes him feel good. It’s a fun treat for him. He’s not going to want to stop it.

Think for a moment about what would make sure you resisted your favourite treat for the rest of your life. Would punishment work best or would you rather swap it for what you perceive to be a much better treat?

If the original activity will earn you a telling off – you’ll probably either

  • go ahead and do it in secret or
  • you’ll become afraid of whoever dishes out the punishment,
  • or, if the thrill is strong enough, you’ll keep misbehaving and just take the punishment.

It’s the same for your dog. If sacrificing one treat actually earned you something even better – wouldn’t it be easier to resist temptation?

Ask for help and support

It can take a long time, quite a few tactical changes and a lot of patience to teach a dog impulse control. After all, you can’t enter into a verbal agreement with him. You have to demonstrate many many times that there’s more to gain by NOT stealing food than there is by doing it. Having a mentor on board will be more helpful that you could ever imagine.

Contact a dog behaviourist and get help to stop your dog behaving badly https://www.ck9training.co.uk/dog-behaviour-consultations/

Find out about activities for dogs in Surrey  https://www.ck9training.co.uk/workshops/


Taking your dog on holiday

Planning a holiday with your furry friend this summer? Here are our top tips for enjoying a summer break with your dog.

Travelling

I’m writing this in the throes of a heatwave. It’s 30 degrees or more outside nearly every day. Very hot and very dry and to be honest, travelling anywhere is very uncomfortable for me – let alone for my dogs.

If I were getting ready to embark on a car journey, I would plan to complete as much of the journey as possible between 6pm and 8am. In other words, overnight and before the sun gets really hot. Even though my car has air conditioning, we’ll be stopping regularly for drinks and comfort breaks and the least time any of us spend in the hot sun, the better as far as I’m concerned.

Cooling mats and cooling coats for the dogs are a must on long hot journeys. And you will probably find them useful throughout the whole holiday – so well worth making the investment.

In your holiday accommodation

If you are camping, caravanning or staying in a holiday cottage, you will, at some point, need to stock up on groceries. You can’t take the dog into a food shop, and you certainly can’t leave him in the car, or even tied up outside the shop. What about using a grocery delivery service? Most of the large supermarkets will deliver to camp sites and holiday cottages and you can place the order online. It’s well worth the small charge that they make.

It’s all going to be about keeping as cool as possible this summer. In some cases indoors will be more comfortable than outside, but it may be the other way around. Many holiday cottages have nice secure gardens so that your dog can noodle around and find a shady spot to relax in. If however that’s not the case, your pet might me more comfy either in a shady place, either in his crate (provided he is crate trained and happy to be in there) or tethered with a long lead and a harness.

It goes without saying that there should be a big bowl of water beside him and he should be making the most of his cooling mat and/or coat.

Days out and sightseeing

In my experience, most dog-friendly holiday accommodation asks that the dog is not left alone in the property. For obvious reasons. Even the most laid back dog can be confused by a temporary change of home and might react badly, damaging the furniture and fittings in the process.

That means, that if you go sightseeing, your dog will need to go too. For some dogs it’s a stimulating and enjoyable experience, others might find new situations stressful and worrying.

First of all, think about travelling and how you will keep everyone happy and healthy on the journey. Remember your cooling mat and a big bottle of water with a dog bowl. Never assume that you will be able to find a bowl of dog water wherever you go.

How well socialised is your dog? Is he happy to meet new people and new dogs?

Wherever I go with my dogs, there is always someone who wants to say hello. My gang are happy to greet people and I trust them not to jump up at anyone. But I have met lots of dogs who are fearful of strangers and might nip if they felt overwhelmed by an enthusiastic person wanting a cuddle. How will you cope with that situation if it arose?

Likewise with meeting new dogs. Dog friendly tourist attractions often have lots of canine visitors. Is your dog polite to others? Maybe socialising your dog is still a work in progress? If that’s the case, why not book a session with a dog behaviourist before you go on holiday. There may not be time to deal with all of the issues but you will certainly come away with lots of ideas for coping with situations that your dog finds difficult and you end up feeling stressed and embarrassed.

Basic obedience to ensure your doggy holiday is stress free

The UK has some stunning beauty spots and amazing places to visit with your dog. But somehow, their beauty fades when you are being dragged around them by a straining, panting, overenthusiastic pooch.

Before you go on holiday, make sure your dog knows how to walk on a loose lead. It’s well worth brushing up on his recall too. After all, he won’t be on home ground and if the two of you get separated it could be difficult to re-unite you again.  If you don’t trust your dog to come back to you when he’s called, then don’t let him off the lead. Simple.

Eating out with your dog

More and more pubs, restaurants and tea rooms are happy to welcome well behaved dogs. Some of them even keep a supply of dog biscuits to help everyone settle.

In an ideal world, your dog will relax at your feet while you are eating. He won’t be wandering around scrounging treats from the other diners. Neither will he be tugging at the lead, panting, whining or generally being a pain.

Having a dog that behaves well in public is not a matter of being lucky enough to pick the right puppy. It comes through careful training and socialisation. A good “trick” to train your dog is to settle on his own mat or towel and relax there until you ask him to move. You can start by training “on your mat” at home.

Choose a mat or a towel that is easily transported. Something that you can pick up and take with you wherever you go. Vet bed make some lightweight, washable mats that can be folded, rolled or squished without losing their shape.  http://www.petlifeonline.co.uk/product/dogs/dog-beds-and-bedding/non-slip-vetbed/

Spread the mat on the ground and with your dog standing beside it give the cue “on your mat”. Use a treat to entice him onto the mat and reward him when he does so. Once “on your mat” has been learned, encourage him to sit or lie down before he is rewarded. The next stage of training will be to reward him for staying on the mat.  It’s hard to explain in a blog – I really need to show you in person so that we can adapt the training to you and your dog.

Do you need help preparing your dog for a holiday?

Please get in touch if you have any questions about

  • Loose lead walking
  • Meeting other dogs
  • Greeting humans politely
  • Coming back when called
  • Behaving nicely in a restaurant
  • Settling in a strange place
  • Travelling long or short distances
  • Keeping your dog calm and happy when you just want to kick back and relax

It doesn’t matter if your holiday is imminent. Even if we haven’t got enough time to completely resolve any issues, we can certainly help you devise some coping mechanisms.

Contact CK9 Training

Related Reading

Read my blog about keeping your dog healthy in hot weather  https://www.ck9training.co.uk/blog/how-to-keep-your-dog-happy-and-healthy-in-a-heatwave/

Making dog walking an enjoyable experience for everyone https://www.ck9training.co.uk/blog/making-dog-walks-fun-for-all/

Book a behaviour consultation https://www.ck9training.co.uk/dog-behaviour-consultations/behaviour-consultation/


How to keep your dog happy and healthy in a heatwave

Hot weather is not normally something we get to complain about in the UK but this year is the exception. A long period of hot dry weather has parched our parks and gardens and is making our dogs puffy, panty and lethargic. So is it still important to walk your dog every day? If not what can you do to keep your dog happy and healthy in this heatwave?

Take the cues from your dog

Animals have a remarkable ability to adapt to the environment around them. In fact, I believe it’s only humans and possibly also honey bees who try to control the environment to suit their needs. We like to crank up the heating in winter and switch on the air con in summer. (Honey bees in the hive beat their wings to warm or cool the hive).

Lions in the Serengeti, polar bears in the Artic, squirrels in the woods etc all change their activity levels to cope with conditions. In fact, in the UK, the only animals that are really active in the middle of a hot hot day are the ones that are working for humans.

If you watch your dog, and read his body language he’ll tell you what he needs.

Provide somewhere peaceful and cool

Left to make his own decisions, your dog will probably find a nice cool spot, lie flat on his side and snooze his way through the hot weather.

Not all modern homes have a cool spot. If you can, allow your dog to free range around the house, he’ll find the best place to be.  For dogs that usually spend time in crates etc whilst you’re out of the house, consider moving the crate to somewhere that the temperature is more amenable. And maybe arrange for someone to visit them fairly frequently to check for signs of distress.

More than ever during a heatwave, it’s vital that children understand that the dog is not to be disturbed when he’s resting. These temperatures are enough to make anyone – including the dog – more irritable than usual. There’s no sense in tempting fate.

Helpful gadgets for hot dogs

Modern technology is amazing. My favourite doggy “gadgets” for hot weather is a cool mat. They somehow absorb the dog’s body heat and help to reduce his temperature.

https://www.dfordog.co.uk/dog-cooling-mat-cool-bed.html

For times when walking or training in hot weather outside is unavoidable, a cooling jacket for your dog is a must. I have them for my shelties and I have no doubt that they make a big difference to the dogs comfort. The manufacturers claim that cooling jackets vastly reduce the risk of heat stroke, which is a killer for dogs. Highly recommended.

Top 15 Best Cooling Vests for Dogs

Put the walking on hold for now

If your dog seems unenthusiastic about walkies – take note. He’s probably being very wise. And he could be looking out for your health as well as his own. Physical exercise in hot weather is something that needs to be managed very carefully – for any creature.

Unless your vet has advised differently, there’s no need to walk your dog every day. Dog walking is more about mental stimulation for the dog, than it is about physical exercise. It’s not the running around that wears him out, it’s sniffing hither and thither and discovering who’s been where. Loose lead walking, takes a lot of concentration for your dog, as does behaving well and responding to everyone he’s with. If he doesn’t get a run he’ll be OK – provided he has something else to occupy his brain.

Walking barefoot on hot paving or tarmac is a no-no for people and dogs alike. It can cause horrific burn injuries that take a long time to heal.  If you feel it really is vital that you walk your dog here’s our checklist

  • Does your dog really need a walk? Is there an alternative activity that could occupy his brain? (more on this later)
  • Take plenty of water and something for him to drink from
  • Aim to go out VERY early in the morning or quite late in the evening when temperatures are naturally cooler
  • Swimming is OK but watch out for algal blooms on ponds and lakes – they can be fatal for dogs.
  • Keep the walk short – 10 -15 minutes is plenty
  • Avoid fast and furious games – stick to loose lead walking
  • Find somewhere shaded for your walk – woodland is ideal
  • Avoid hard surfaces like tarmac or paving – burnt paws are painful
  • If you’re travelling there by car don’t even think about leaving the dog in the car – not even for a minute
  • At the risk of repeating myself – consider very carefully whether a different activity that will use up your dog’s mental energy would be better than a walk in hot weather.

Alternatives to Walking

Some dogs just can’t switch off their brains, no matter what the weather is like. They need to be busy. Walking satisfies their curiosity. It allows them to use their nose, ears and eyes just as nature means them too. However, walking isn’t always practical. Here are some ideas that allow your dog to use his senses – but in a sensible way

Chewing

Whenever you watch a TV programme about wild dogs, there’ll be at least on shot of them sitting around chewing on a bone. It’s a natural behaviour that scientists believe releases dopamine into the brain.  Dopamine is a chemical in your brain which stimulates the nervous system and makes you feel good.  For a dog, chewing is the equivalent of watching a film, reading a book, going out for coffee. (That feel good chemical also explains why dogs chew to relieve anxiety).

If you can’t take your dog for a walk, a Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter or a tasty bone are an alternative way to keep him busy.  NOTE. If your dog has problems with resource guarding, please talk to a dog behaviourist before you try this.

Sniffing

A great tool for dogs who like to be busy is a snuffle mat. It’s like an old fashioned rag rug, or maybe one of those play mats for babies where there are lots of flaps and pockets to explore.

Hide small treats in the mat and allow your dog to nose around and find them all. I like to use a small handful of their dried food ration that way I can keep an eye on their diet. For greedy dogs, a snuffle mat can be used to feed their whole meal – it slows them down and helps take the strain off their digestive system.

If you don’t have a snuffle mat, a cardboard box filled with scrunched up newspaper balls makes a good search and find game. As does a child’s ball pit. You could even use the whole of your living room and hide treats all around – but only if you trust the dog not to get over excited and rush around wrecking the place!

Spend quality quiet time together

Just spend quality time with your dog. Gently interacting together is great therapy for both of you, especially when it’s just too hot to move.

Steve Mann and Nancy from IMDT explain the importance of quality time.

Training Tricks

Nothing occupies a dog’s brain – or yours – like learning new skills. Why not join in on one of our tricks training workshops and develop some new skills for both of you. It’s just for fun. You could teach your dog how to ride a skateboard, jump through your arms, or fetch the TV remote. Fabulous hot weather activities that will leave you both feeling relaxed.

More about teaching your dog tricks


Children and dogs. The ideal combination or a recipe for disaster?

In my career as a dog trainer, I’ve come across many different attitudes to mixing children and dogs. There are those who are afraid that the dog will hurt the child (or vice-versa). And unfortunately there are still too many nasty incidents occuring. I can see how people might get anxious about mixing dogs and children. Some people think (as I do) that if dogs and children are taught how to respect each other, they can and do make firm friendships and can support each other through life’s trials and tribulations.

It’s all about communication

Our school curriculums are not just academic learning, they’re also about children learning to communicate and get on well with each other using words and body language. Being able to communicate is an essential life skill. It allows you to ask for what you need, safeguard yourself and others and build strong, supportive relationships.

Children are also encouraged to learn foreign languages in school and if they’re lucky, they also get to learn some sign language. Well, I think of “dog” as another language. Dogs don’t use words to communicate with each other or with people, but they DO use body language. I have no doubt that dogs think that humans speak and behave like aliens. And so it’s important for dogs to learn to understand us and for humans to learn to understand dogs. Which is what dog training is all about.

When communications break down or are misinterpreted – then we get conflict. If a child (or an adult) doesn’t realise when a dog is asking for more space, then both parties are at risk. The human may get bitten, the dog may be re-homed or worse.

Understanding the limitations of children and dogs

Adults have rules and beliefs around what counts as acceptable behaviour. Children learn those rules as part of the growing process. While they are still learning, adults tend to either avoid putting a child into a situation he or she isn’t ready to cope with. For example, you wouldn’t ask a 3 year old to walk himself to nursery. He might know the way, he might even be very good at road safety but what if something unexpected happened? Could he cope? No of course not. Which is why he needs supervision.

In the same way, it’s not fair to ask a dog to cope with a lively toddler who, although he knows not to pull the dogs tail, sit on its bed or taste-test its Bonio, will probably do those things anyway as soon as Mum isn’t looking. Toddlers like to test the boundaries. Dog’s can’t say “no”, neither can they distract the child with a different toy. When a dog is afraid or in pain, it has two options, run away or stand and fight.

I’m not saying that the child is always to blame when things go wrong. A young dog is apt to jump up, lick, nip, scratch and potentially hurt a child just out of excitement. It’s not malicious at all, in fact it’s how puppies play.  However, it could make a child wary and possibly instill a lifelong fear of dogs. It’s for the supervising adult to make sure that the dog stays calm around the child and the child stays calm around the dog.

Why Supervision is paramount

Until your child is able to respect the dog and vice-versa, never ever leave the two of them together unsupervised. If you leave the room, either take one of them with you or put some sort of barrier between the two of them. Perhaps the dog can have a toddler-proof crate or a pen where he is safe.

I’m not going to set guidelines for what a child can do at any given age – that’s for parents and guardians to decide on based on the child’s maturity and the dogs’ temperament.

Accentuate the positive and look for age-appropriate activities

Show your child what IS acceptable as well as what is not. Help the dog and the child to build a bond by making sure all of their contact is positive.

An older child must also learn that a dog can’t always change the rules according to who it’s with. As an example, 12 year old Justin loves playing fast and furious games with his Nan’s adolescent Labrador. He would be happy to let the dog jump up at him but Gran has explained to him that the dog will then think it’s OK to jump on his 2 year old cousin or his 80 year old great grandma….either which could cause injury. So he helps to train the dog by discouraging unwanted behaviours and encouraging good manners.

The same dog, loves food treats (what Labrador doesn’t?) and little Alice, aged 2, loves to hand snacks to the dog. Grandma actively encourages the interaction but because it’s helping to build the relationship. However, there were a couple of incidents where the dog mouthed at the little girl’s hand when no treat was offered. No harm was done, but Grandma could see how the behaviour could escalate and lead to an injury. Alice is too young begin to understand dog training so Grandma needed to take steps to modify this behaviour.

After a quick chat with a trusted dog trainer, Grandma changed tactics and taught the little girl to place treats on the floor rather than feed the dog from her hand. Baby and dog still enjoyed the “game” but the dog has stopped thinking of Alice’s hand as a food dispenser and instead looks to the ground beneath her feet.

Dogs and children training together

Watching a child enjoying the company of a dog is a real joy to me. Whether they are noodling about in the garden, relaxing in front of the TV or burning off energy with a game of chase, it’s an absolute delight. It’s almost like a Disney movie. Remember though, that every Disney movie takes a lot of planning, and many many rehearsals before it is perfect. It doesn’t just happen.

A brilliant way to for children to really enjoy spending time with dogs, is to involve them with training and socialisation. It gets the children away from the TV and teaches them communication skills. It also helps focus the dog’s brain, burns off his excess energy and enriches his life.

CK9 dog training run a kids club in Banstead Surrey, where children can learn more about dog behaviour whilst having fun with their own dog. It’s a mix of agility training, teaching the dog to do tricks and understanding how to encourage and reward good manners.

This is a very popular workshop with a limited number of places so book soon to avoid disappointment.

More details about childrens dog training classes here https://www.ck9training.co.uk/workshops/kids-club/