Tips for Creating a Positive Relationship for Your Kids and Dogs

By: Sam Kanouse

Published Date: July 18, 2017

Roxie (left) and Jovi (right- one-year-old) are a pair of  Labrador Retrievers who live in Omaha. Their guardians set up a dog behavior training session because they were concerned about their younger dog, Jovi, growling at children.

Jovi and Roxie greeted me in an excited fashion; jumping up, circling around and barking. I did not pet Jovi when she did this because that would reinforce her tendency to jump up again. Also, you don’t want to praise your dog when they stop jumping up on people, this can lead to a behavioral pattern where the dog jumps up and then gets down expecting a reward, leading to a cyclical pattern. Later in the session I went over our Petting with a Purpose technique, to help the guardians avoid petting the dogs at the wrong time.

You can see how Jovi and Roxie behaved in the video below.

Both dogs calmed down quickly after our door greeting, sleeping while I talked to their guardians. The guardian’s main behavior concern was Jovi’s behavior towards their young daughter and that she growled at people. Jovi had recently started to isolate herself from the family and growled at the daughter a few times.

I asked the guardians if there was any change in their routine that would effect Jovi’s behavior. Jovi had started to join the young children when being babysat by their grandmother during the day. There was another young dog at the grandmother’s house, which the guardians described as being extremely persistent in attempting to get Jovi to play. While all dogs need exercise, Jovi was experiencing a stimulus overload! I suggested that Jovi should either not join the children at grandma’s house during the day or only join them for a couple of hours.

It is normal for any dog, young or old, to communicate that they need more personal space by growling. In Jovi’s case she was exhausted from her day with the kids and another dog that she was too tired to play with the kids at night. By changing her routine to allow her more rest, we can set Jovi up for success to have a positive relationship with the kids.

We also discussed how we could help the children interact with Jovi in a positive way. We created new rules for the kids:

  • Do not pet or interact with the dogs when they are on their dog beds (this is the dogs’ safe zone)
  • Feed the dogs treats with their palm open and palm facing the ceiling
  • Avoid staring into the dogs’ eyes (this can be considered a confrontational behavior)
  • Humans should approach the dogs on the dog’s left or right side
  • Pet the dogs on their backs in long, gentle strokes

I also suggested that the guardians to train a new trick each week with the kids and have the kids read the dogs a bedtime story.These activities will create a positive relationship between the young children and their dogs.

By the end of the session we developed a new daily routine for Jovi and taught the children how to positively interact with their dogs. You can see Jovi and Roxie’s Roadmap to Success video below.

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This post was written by: Sam Kanouse

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