How Can I Prepare My Dogs to Visit With Kids?

Rule 4: Teach Your Dogs Coping Skills Before the Visit

The most important preventive coping skill you can teach your dogs is to go to their “safe place.” This should be a location where children are not allowed to enter, such as their crate or a room that has been designated solely for the dogs. The goal is to give your dogs an opportunity to leave the situation either by choosing to go to their safe place or by going to you so you can then take them to their safe place. If your dog is unsure or you’re unsure of his emotional state, call him to you and let him choose if he’d prefer to stay or go to his safe place.

When children are visiting, it’s important for you to be able to tell your dogs what to do to get them out of potentially sticky situations. If your dogs have been taught basic skills like “come,” “sit” and “mat,” you will have a way to communicate with them. Hand targeting is another beneficial tool that will allow you to move your dog to different locations in a nonconfrontational manner.

Rule 5: Keep Your Relationship the Same

Often we feel a social pressure to reprimand our dogs when visitors are present because it feels like that’s what’s expected of us. For example, you may regularly allow your dog on the sofa — except when visitors are present. The sudden rule change can be stressful and downright unfair to your pet.

Ahead of time, determine what behaviors may need to be altered and train new behaviors in their place. For instance, you can teach your dog to go to a mat or a different room when guests are present. To practice ahead of time, reward your dogs by allowing them to play with their favorite toy in the desired location.

As pet lovers, we know the depth of compassion and empathy our pets teach us. Not all children tolerate dogs well, and not all dogs tolerate children well. By being proactive, working as a team with the child’s parents and advocating for your dog, you can create a wonderful experience for all.

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