Protection dogs are specifically trained to stay with their owners and guard them against hostile persons and situations. A lot of people see protection dogs as being aggressive and only suitable for individuals who live a dangerous lifestyle. You may get the image of a mafia thug walking around city streets with a snarling canine at his side when you think of a protection dog.
This is an unrealistic image of the nature of protection dogs. The reality is that protection dogs are trained to defend people, which means that they can be trained to defend families; especially families with children.
You may be thinking about getting a protection dog or have recently purchased one and are wondering how they will react to your children. You should be very careful when bringing home a new protection dog that hasn’t been specifically trained to be around kids.
Children, especially those under the age of 6, can be triggers for any dog. A child’s movement can be erratic, spontaneous and unlike anything that a protection dog has been exposed to. If handled properly, protection dogs can be great additions to your family and can adjust to interact in a safe and nurturing manner with your kids.
In this article, we will discuss some of the ways you can get your protection dog adjusted to being around children.
Preparation is Key
Before you even bring your protection dog home you should prep your house and your kids for the new arrival – just like you would with a newborn. Dogs thrive on structure and so do children. That is why it is important to be consistent with things like where the dog will sleep and eat, and what rules they are to follow.
Your children will more than likely be very excited about having a new dog so you should take some time to explain to them that your new protection dog is there for a very specific reason.
Before the dog is a fixture in your home, explain to your kids that the dog is not a toy. Tell them that they should not grab at or be too loud around the dog and treat it with great care. Let them know where the dog is to sleep and eat to minimize surprises and undue arousal.
You can also create a set of rules for your kids regarding the treatment of the dog and post them somewhere in the house where they can see. Some key rules should include:
- Do not bother the dog when it is eating or sleeping
- Always pet the dog gently
- Never play with the dog when a parent is not around
Know your Dog’s Commands
Trained protection dogs will usually already have a set of commands it understands before it gets to a new owner. When you buy your protection dog, be sure to ask about all the commands it knows from the trainer/handler as these commands will come in handy when you are acclimating your dog to your kids.
Once you know the commands yourself, teach them to your kids – especially ones that are meant to cease activity or aggression of the dog.
Familiarize with Children’s Toys
Like children themselves, their toys can make a lot of erratic noise and movement. This can easily startle a dog. For this reason, it’s important to acclimate family protection dogs to the children’s toys.
When your kids are not around, let your dog sniff the toys and see how they work and what they can do. This way, they will not be surprised when a toy fire engine comes to life with lights and sirens when your child is playing with it.
Letting your dog get the scent of the toys before meeting your children is also a good way of getting them used to the scent of your children. A dog can easily pick up the scent of your kid from a toy that they are particularly fond of.
Encourage Together Time
When you are ready to bring your dog home it is crucial that you not leave it alone with your kids. Incidentally, this is a great opportunity to spend time together with the dog and your kids. It is important that you do this as it will let your dog and children ease into interacting with one another.
Be sure to nip any negative behavior (both of the dog and your child) in the bud as soon as you observe it. If your child is being too rough with the dog, let him or her know that it is not how they are supposed to treat it. If your dog seems stressed or is being too active around your child separate them immediately and chastise the dog.
This is a very important time as it allows you to see how they will act with each other and what may become a problem. Since you are the alpha in the pack, your dog needs to see how you interact with your kids.
When you are with your dog and kids at the same time, tell your kids to give the dog a command. If the dog does not obey, reinforce the command by giving it yourself. This will show the dog that they are to be subordinate to the children as well.
If you do all of the above you will see your protection dog getting used to your kids very quickly. They are smart and pick up on cues and hierarchies pretty quickly. You still have to enforce established rules and routines.
Remember that protection dogs are working dogs. They need to be given tasks and commands to feel secure. Be sure to walk or exercise them routinely. Make sure they are fed at more or less the same time every day.
Routine will also be important for your kids. The dog should have a general sense of when they go to sleep, when they are active in the house and when they are usually gone so keep these things as consistent as possible.