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You are your dogs’ voice and advocate; you speak for them when they cannot. So it’s important that you can interpret when your dogs are uncomfortable or stressed and then modify the environment accordingly. This often means either removing the child or allowing your dogs to leave the situation. Here are some signs to watch for that may indicate your dogs are experiencing stress or anxiety:
A dog who stares, freezes or growls will not likely enjoy interacting with the unpredictability of children.
People often dote on visiting children while ignoring their dogs, but this creates a negative association for dogs that children mean they get ignored. Instead, make sure when the child is present in the room that someone is giving the dogs attention by playing quietly with their favorite toy or training them using click training and their favorite treat. When the child isn’t present in the room, pretend your pet is invisible and ignore him. Then, as soon as the child reenters the room, resume your interaction. This creates a strong association that children equal good stuff.
Kids are scary to a dog; they move, smell and sound different from adults. When something startling happens — and it will, no matter how much you attempt to control things — give your dogs treats in a happy voice and then take them to their safe place. For example, if the child squeals or falls, give your dogs a treat. This will help your dogs to learn that no matter how “odd” or unpredictable a child’s antics are, it means something good for them.
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