Kids and Older Dogs

Looking for an Older Dog with Kids:

1) Look for a dog that has been fostered in a home with children or well exposed to children of varying ages and in varying situations to see how the dog manages. Try to think of things a child may do and see how the dog reacts.

2) Do not assume a dog that has come from a home with children will always be good with them. If a dog has been forced to learn that children are a threat, he may have developed serious fears that make him unsuitable for a new home with children. If you know the dog has come from a home with children, try to find out why he came in, and whether those children treated the dog kindly and with respect.

3) Consider making several visits to meet the dog in different areas and different times with the family and children, so the behavior of the dog and children can be observed before making a final decision. If the dog hasn’t been living with children in a foster home and you are relying on information from his previous owners, this step is particularly important.

4) Make sure your children know what to expect and how to behave around a dog. Make sure they follow the Rules for Children and make sure visitors to your home do so too, and follow the Rules for Dog Owners (below) yourself.

5) Enjoy your dog! Dogs and kids usually get on really well and can teach each other a lot!

Rules for Children Around Dogs

• Never run up to a dog, even one you know.

• Never scream or run around a dog, even your own.

• Approach dogs from the side or front – do not sneak up on a dog from behind or while the dog is sleeping or eating.

• Never approach a dog without adult supervision – even if the dog belongs to a friend or neighbor.

• Always let the dog sniff you first and do not stare him in the eye, some dogs may be threatened by this.

• Pat under the chin or on the back, some dogs may get nervous if you touch the top of the head.

• If approached by a strange dog, stand still. If you are on a bike, stop, put the bike down and stand still. Never run or ride away!

• Never approach a dog that is acting afraid or one that is growling or showing teeth – even if the owner is there.

• Never hang over fences or put your hands through fence openings to touch a dog, even one you know.

• Leave a mother and pups be – she may become protective!

• Avoid rough games such as tug-of-war, jumping up for toys/food, wrestling and chasing. If the dog hurts you, even accidentally, he could be in big trouble.

• Never tease or hit a dog or pull ears, tail or feet.

• Always inform an adult if you see a loose dog on the road or on its own in a park.

• Never run away from a dog – it can encourage a chase.

• If a dog threatens you, avoid eye contact, hold a rolled up jacket or bag in front of you and back away slowly. Do not scream or run.

• If a dog does attack you, the best thing to do is roll up like a ball and put your hands behind your neck.

Rules for Dog Owners

• Begin training and socializing your dog from the first day it comes into your house. Even an older dog may benefit from a training class, and may need you to gently make it clear what is and is not allowed in your house. Be kind but consistent.

• Get your dog accustomed to having every part of the body handled, but do it gently. If the dog has been abused, take this slowly and be aware that the dog is not being deliberately naughty: he may just be fearful.

• Never allow a child to scream, yell or run around a dog. Even if the dog and child belong to you.

• Keep your dog securely fenced and not tied in your garden. Tying can encourage unwanted behaviours.

• Keep your dog on the lead in public, until you are sure that he will come when you call him, and you know how he will behave when he sees strange kids, other dogs or cats. Never let the dog off the lead on a road – even if he stays on the pavement, someone cycling past could be an irresistable opportunity to chase.

• Don’t leave your dog unattended in the garden if children are likely to be walking past – the temptation for children to “visit” can be too great, and there is a risk if they can put their hands or feet through the fence that your dog may bite to defend his garden.

• Make sure your dog knows the rules of greeting: always sitting calmly. If the dog cannot sit, the dog cannot be greeted.

• Never let a small child walk a dog unsupervised. Even a medium-sized elderly dog can pull down a child if startled or the child may become frightened and drop the lead.

• Always supervise children (even teenagers) with dogs. And do not hesitate to reinforce the behaviors from both that you want.

• Never force your dog to “say hi” if he is seems wary of someone. Give him time and space to be shy if he needs it.

• Monitor your dog’s behavior and address any concerns immediately with the rescue where you got him, or if available with a trainer or behaviorist.

• Use every opportunity to teach about dog safety.

• Spay/Neuter your dog. Hormones can make dogs less tolerant. People who responsibly show dogs know the extra responsibility of owning an intact dog. They go the extra mile to ensure the dog is well socialized. But the average dog is often less socialized or trained. Add in hormones and the chance of the dog becoming a problem are slightly increased.

Neutering is NOT a cure-all for undesired behaviors in the pet dog, but can be a step towards working with them.

Most rescue dogs will be neutered by the rescue, and with modern anaesthetics, this is quite safe even for quite elderly dogs. If you should adopt an intact older dog from a friend or relative, talk to your vet about neutering.
The information given here has been kindly supplied by theSafe Kids, Safe DogsProject and adapted for the Oldies Club.