How the Kids Can Help
Published: February 28, 2019
By: Rebecca Mason, CPDT-KA, CTDI, M.Ed.
Author Website: Click to Visit
Hands are not toys – neither are they weapons. This is one of the first things I teach my obedience students when they come to see me, because everyone loves their little Christmas puppy until they realize they have (unintentionally) trained that pup to bite their hands!
Inevitably, in every family there is one individual who thinks it’s funny or sweet to let that 5-pound pup chew on their fingers. Well, it may seem sweet right now, but soon your entire family will regret it!
Here’s how to un-train them from biting: When playing with toys, if your pup grabs your skin instead of the toy, drop the toy and walk away. Everyone in the family, including children, will need to be on board. Soon your pup will learn that when they bite skin, the fun is over. No need to scold or fuss. Give your pup a break and come back and play later. In fact, in many cases of nipping, I find that pups are far too overstimulated to focus or stop mouthing, usually because they have played too long or had too much activity that afternoon. Make sure pups get breaks and rest.
One reason puppies think our hands are toys is that we teach them that they are. We play with them using our hands instead of toys, mussing the hair on the top of their heads and petting them on the face or in excitable ways.
Proper petting is something all family members need to learn, especially children. In fact, petting over the top of the head is threatening and will often be answered with a nip. Teach your children to pet dogs underneath the chin or on the side of the neck. Have them practice “1,2,3, and see.” Pet for three seconds, then stop and see what the dog does. If he leans into you, he probably likes the petting. But if he backs away, stop.
Second, hands are not weapons. If you hit your dog or bop him on the nose when he does something you don’t like, he will learn that hands are to be feared. As a result, when you or someone else goes to pet him later, he will growl or nip to keep that person away.
Never, never hit your dog. That will only make him fear you, which will damage your bond and make your dog less likely to listen to commands in the future.
Kids love to help, especially when it comes to the family pet. I encourage parents to look into getting a type of toy called a flirt pole. It’s like a giant cat wand – a long stick with string and a toy on the end – but for dogs. This toy allows kids to play with a toy with their pup without getting their hands or face near the dog’s face. It will also tire Fido out!
Kids can also help by making sure their shoes, clothes, and toys are picked up at all times. Your pup doesn’t know the difference between your things and his! Just make sure to supervise all interactions, play or otherwise, between your dog and child, so that everyone is safe and happy.
Rebecca Mason is a certified dog trainer and owner of Love Them Train Them LLC in Birmingham. She is a former elementary school teacher and is passionate about working with families to channel their dogs’ energy positively. She believes every dog has potential, no matter the age or breed! www.lovethemtrainthem.com