Dogs and kids are Norman Rockwell territory. What's not to love about loyalty, friendship and mutual admiration?
In real life, however, managing children and dogs in the same household can present challenges for parents who are not equipped to deal with them.
Here are some tips for coping.\Shelve the Disney expectations. Dogs are not stuffed animals with heartbeats. They are living creatures that bark, run, jump and knock things down. If they are puppies, they will use those sharp little teeth to nip and mouth. They will chew the heads off prized Barbies and consider anything on the floor to be theirs to gnaw.
¢ Don't expect instant results. No matter who came first, the dog or the kid, the new arrival will necessitate an adjustment period.
¢ If at any time a dog shows aggression to a child, waste no time in bringing in a professional to assess the situation. Your best bet is a certified applied animal behaviorist; you can find a directory at www.animalbehavior.org.
¢ Show the dog where he ranks. Lesson one for them must be that little humans are higher up in the food chain. The best places to teach this lesson are coveted vantage points: Children should have the right to displace a dog - gently and respectfully - from beds and couches. Dogs should submit to this good-naturedly. If not, they lose their furniture privileges - period, end of story.
¢ Teach your children respect. Tails are not for pulling. Eyes are not for poking. Though kids have a natural curiosity, they should learn that they cannot treat animals in the same manner as a Barney doll.
¢ Enforce the sanctity of the crate. Dogs need a haven away from the household. Children should never be permitted to bother a dog in his crate or to crawl into the crate. Ever.
¢ Don't try and override Mother Nature. Dogs are scavengers. They are prone to drive-by PB&J snatchings. Instead of trying to train the dog to resist this urge, teach your children to "seek high ground." Eating while seated in a chair or other lofty area is not only better mannered but also removes the temptation to grab and run.