Raising a child-friendly dog

It’s so important to raise dogs to be great with kids – particularly if you have children, or plan to one day! Here’s my list of the top things you can do to help your dog get along with – and love – kids.  By MARK VETTE

Puppy love
If possible start with a puppy. They are ripe for learning new experiences at two to four months old. Everything your puppy absorbs at this time forms the basis for its future behaviour as an adult dog.

Socialising
Take your pup out to meet children of all ages. Use a clicker to click and reward positive interactions, and ask kids to give treats to your dog (safely on the palm of a flat hand).

Desensitisation
At home, expose and desensitise your pup to possible situations – its tail being pulled or accidentally stepped on; kids crying or screaming; being hugged or patted all over; scooters and bikes; its food bowl being interfered with; kids being in its bed or taking toys away.

Be very careful – if your dog has a traumatic experience it can be hard to fix. Start slowly and build up to more difficult situations, using a clicker to click and reward.

Be kind
Teach children to respect animals. Dogs should be left alone when eating, chewing a toy, sleeping or showing signs of distress. Most don’t like shouting, being hugged, climbed on or being pulled by the collar, so even if we train our dog to accept these things, we should try to avoid doing them.

Develop the bond
Dogs need food, water, exercise and lots of love every day. Plus occasional bathing or a brush. Kids can help and this will strengthen the relationship and teach important lessons about caring for others.

Mark Vette, the star of TV show Purina Pound Pups to Dog Stars, is one of the world’s leading animal psychologists and behaviourists. He has studied and trained dogs for more than 40 years, solving every behavioural issue imaginable. dogzen.com