Three (now 4) Books
about Dogs and Children

reviewed by Pam Green

While of obvious interest to those who have both dogs and children, these books are also relevant to those who have dogs but no children, because children are ubiquitous and encounters with them are unavoidable in ordinary life, and to those who have children but no dogs, because dogs are ubiquitous & unavoidable.
I write these reviews from the viewpoint of one who is highly knowledgeable about dogs, but who has never raised children and does not spend a lot of time with them. I must however frequently deal with issues of children because I do (Bouvier) Rescue and many potential adopters already have children or plan to later on.

As a Rescuer, I have learned to ask about ages of children and plans to have or not have any later on. I normally refuse to place dogs in homes with children under 5 (for dog savvy parents) or 7 (for less dog savvy parents) and am reluctant to place dogs in homes where there is or will be more than two children regardless of ages. The material in these books has contributed to my views on ages of children relevant to dogs, as has some material from a friend who is a researcher in child cognitive development.
Since writing this, I've found a new book that is excellent. So now it is really Four Books about Dogs and Children.  

Books covered are :



reviewed by Pam Green © 1955 , 2003, 2007

Note : There are significant differences between dogs and children :

Dogs & Kids

by Bardi McLennan, Howell Books, 1993

This book is excellent and I highly recommend it. It is well written and full of useful ideas and information. It promotes responsible dog-guardianship and child-parenting.

The information related to the ages and developmental stages of children is especially important.

The book is written for the perspective of those who are familiar with children and with basic concepts of child-parenting, but who are not necessarily familiar with dogs and dog-training. The author is a long time dog breeder (Welsh Terrier) and dog behavior problem consultant, as well as long time editorial assistant to etiquette columnist Amy Vanderbilt.


Part One, "Dogs as Kids", is devoted to the dog and dog training, with the material cast into terms familiar to the parent of children. The section emphasizes the many similarities between dogs and young children, but also carefully distinguishes the differences.

The key to discipline for dog or child is consistency & predictability as to what behaviors the parent accepts and approve versus those behaviors forbidden or disapproved. Discipline is establishing routines, laying down rules, and defining limits. The goal of discipline is always self-control by the dog or child. Yelling, physical abuse, force, nagging, anger, shame, and guilt don't work well on dogs or children. Punishments which are excessive or not timely (nearly simultaneous with the behavior) can create aggression or "learned helplessness* ." Many "undesirable" behaviors of dog or child are absolutely normal , but must be regarded by the parent as unacceptable and thus must be disciplined.

The main system of negative reinforcement advocated is that of "Time out" and "ignoring." "Time out" for the child is the old fashioned "go to your room" or "sit in the corner". For the dog it is the dog-trainer's old familiar use of the crate for younger puppies to prevent or interrupt unacceptable behaviors and use of the long down-stay for older puppies and adults for the same purpose. The author stresses that the "time out" should be announced by the parent, interrupting the undesirable behavior and sending the child/dog into a place of confinement and period of complete boredom.

I think we dog-trainers tend to be a bit less formal about our time-outs (especially about announcing them) and tend to focus on stopping or preventing the behavior, rather than on the dog comprehending the causal relationship between his behavior and the ensuing period of boredom; but, with consistent use, one does find that dogs do eventually "put it together" and refrain from the behavior which incites the "time out".
Children of course can understand the causal relationship more easily because it can be explained to them. "Ignoring" is withdrawal of attention from the child/dog. It is used in conjunction with or as follow-up to a "time out" and it is used by itself as a means of negatively reinforcing any undesired "attention seeking behaviors", ie all the cute or annoying things a dog or child does to focus the parent's attention on itself and/or to manipulate the parent. The "spoiled rotten" over-indulged dog (or child) will need a lot of "ignoring."
I have found as a dog person, that dogs respond very well to having my attention monopolized elsewhere. The most obvious example : the moment I pick up the telephone, all my Bouvs (and others) immediately lie down and zonk out --- because they know as well as Ma Bell that I'm gonna be unavailable for quite a while ! Likewise they don't bother me while I hack at the Mac.

UPDATE : on re-reading this book, I noticed that by emphasizing "time out" as the main form of behavior modification, the author is ignoring the reality that some of the dog's undesirable behaviors are inherrently rewarding to the dog (and same is true for children). Many of these dog behaviors that are inconvenient or annoying to the owner are behaviors the breed was bred to do and therefore "it feels good to his genes." Examples would be digging for a terrier, herding /chasing behaviors for a herding breed (which includes some breeds not in the AKC Herding Group), chasing behaviors for the sighthounds, etc etc. If a behavior is inherrently rewarding, ie self-reinforcing, then it will persist even if there is no added external reward coming from people in the home. Merely ignoring a self-rewarding behavior will not cause it to extinguish, ie go away, because it is still being rewarded internally. Instead , you have to choose an alternative behavior that is incompatible with the undesired behavior, ie a behavior that cannot be done at the same time as the undesired one , and then you must train and generously reward the alternative incompatible and acceptable behavior. For example there are so many annoying things a dog cannot do while Sitting or while Lying Down. A dog cannot jump up on you (which the dog may enjoy even if you are trying to ignore it) while sitting or lying down; so teach Sit and use that command whenever the dog is even thinking of jumping up, then give a generous reward for obeying Sit.
FURTHER UPDATE : Actually for almost any behavior you find undesirable or dangerous, the BEST solution is very often reward-training an alternative behavior that is acceptable or desirable and that is incompattible with the undesirable one.

Part 1 includes good explanation of why it is essential for dog and owner to participate in an obedience class, but that this class is merely the beginning and foundation. Everything learned must be put to use in everyday living situations. Also an excellent discussion of "freedom" with emphasis on the cruelty of giving puppy or child an inappropriate degree of freedom which is actually "freedom to get into trouble" or "freedom to get hurt" and advocacy of crates and gates as the dog's equivalent of child's playpen, crib, stroller, car-seat, as safety devices and freedom limiters. Advice for unspoiling the "spoiled rotten" dog (who must be unspoiled before a child joins the family) is sound and consists of standard techniques for the owner becoming more alpha, plus use of the "ignoring" technique. Also included are good discussions of barking, "desensitizing" (= "saturation" ) of dog to fear-arousing stimuli, house-breaking (though without mention of what a breeze this is with a dog compared to a child), car safety (with emphatic hot weather warning for dog and child#) , and puppy socialization.

One minor quibble : the brief discussion of grooming misleads one to believe that one grooming session per week is sufficient --- very untrue for many breeds, including my beloved Bouvier. Of course if you are intending to have both dogs and children, you might be wise to pick one of the short-coated breeds with minimal grooming requirements , "wipe 'em off with a damp washcloth" dogs, though these still need tooth cleaning, ear cleaning, and toe-nail trimming.

The dog section very properly emphasizes that despite the many similarities , a dog is NOT a human being in a fur coat and that he must NOT be treated as if he were. Also good mention that many dog breeds have been bred for specific working purposes and these drives must be understood, respected, and if possible fulfilled.

(However the author's statement that various working tests "require little work on your part", while true for some forms of work (eg terrier "earth tests") is wildly untrue for others (eg herding and hunting tests) !!

In summary the dog section is a pretty fair guide for the dog-inexperienced person on how to raise and train a dog in a manner that will produce a good family pet who will welcome the advent of children into the home. (Of course it should not be the only book on dogs that will be studied!) And it's an interesting change of viewpoint for those of us who are dog-experienced.


Part Two, "Dogs and Kids", is devoted to the issues of adding a child to a family that already has a dog or adding a dog to a family that already has one or more children. As chapters progress through the various ages & developmental stages of the child, there is careful discussion of whether this is the right age (of child) to introduce a dog into the home and if so what are the essential qualities of the dog.

Where the dog precedes the child, the author emphatically advises that the prospective parents think through all changes in the dog's lifestyle that will occur and implement them as thoroughly as possible at least 6 months before the baby arrives. The length of human gestation should provide ample time for retraining the dog. In particular the dog must get "unspoiled" and must learn to accept less attention or periods of inattention, to respect the child-gate ("stretch gate") at the nursery door, and to walk demurely on leash while mamma pushes a stroller (I advise practicing with a sack of flour or potatoes in the stroller to give it the right weight and momentum). The dog should be neutered/spayed, if this has not previously been done, for a more serene pet; and all other health matters should be attended to. The dog should be crate-trained if this has not already been done.

(I totally agree with all these recommendations, but would suggest that the work with the dog should begin before the pregnancy begins, should begin before you go off of contraception. If you are not able to train the dog, you should re-think the wisdom of having children : they are harder to train than dogs are.)

The actual arrival of the infant and all issues of preventing trouble between baby and dog are discussed in detail. The golden rule is "SUPERVISE OR SEPARATE !!!", ie never leave them together unattended !! The other never is never keep soiled diapers where the dog might conceivably get at them -- with warning that "you'll regret even a moment's lapse", though the author coyly does not say why you'll regret it .

You'll regret it because the dog will eat the baby poop (resulting in poop-breath and poop-beard) , strew shredded diapers all over, and may swallow portions of diaper, which can result in intestinal blockage requiring emergency surgery or causing the dog's death.

The discussion of the feasibility of adding a new dog to a family containing an infant child is detailed and demanding in its requirements. In short, only get an older dog of highly child-tolorant breed (eg Bouvier) who is steady and easy-going, warmly friendly, very used to children and proven safe with them, and who is well trained --- and then only if you are an experienced dog person and if you will be staying home all day throughout this life-stage.

(Note : in my opinion the "you" who must be home all day must be a parent or grandparent or other permanent family member. A hired nanny cannot be counted on as a long term solution, as this one who is dog-savvy may quit and the next one may be totally dog-ignorant or even dog-hating.)
As source for a suitable dog the author prefers a breeder hold-back (ie didn't grow up to be Group winner potential) over a Rescue dog because more is known about the breeder's hold back dog..
I think perhaps she has not met Rescuers who practice extensive foster care and testing of rescued dogs --- among the truly child-loving breeds (such as Bouvier) one does find some rescued dogs that could go to an infant's home. On the other hand, I would refuse to place even such a dog in a home with an infant, because I think that the parents "have too much on their plate" to be able to give enough time and emotional investment to a new dog.

The chapter on toddler and pre-schooler emphasizes that when the child becomes mobile the potential for trouble between child and dog escalates dramatically. Children at this age are very inclined to provoke, annoy , tease, or torment dogs --- in ignorance or on purpose --- and behave in various ways with high potential to provoke a bite from even a patient and friendly dog. The parent must devote major effort to supervising and teaching the child how to behave around dogs. This section MUST be read by every parent, especially those who have never owned a dog and who never intend to do so !!!

(The stories I could tell of such parents allowing their little darling (little monster) to assault innocent dogs ! Such as that little son-of-a-man who with absolutely no warning kicked my Chelsea smack in her ribs while the doting parents watched and smiled benignly.)
(Note : little boys seem to be more inclined to annoy dogs on purpose than are little girls. That's probably why they get bitten 3 times as often as girls.)

The feasibility of adding a dog to a home containing a toddler or pre-schooler is similar to or lower than that for the home with an infant. The requirements on the dog are at least as stringent.

(And again, as a Rescuer, I refuse to put a dog into such a home unless the parents are so dog-savvy and so dog-loving that they are willing to "re-home" the kid if things are not working out between dog and child.)

The chapter on "older kids", ie from 3 on up, emphasizes the benefits to the child from having a bond with a companion animal, especially a dog. This is the start of the right time for adding the right dog to the family, with ages 7 to 10 described as an ideal time for a child to truly appreciate the dog and to learn to be a loving, considerate, and responsible (with supervision) care-giver. The parent's responsibilities for teaching and supervising are emphasized. Good discussion on selecting an appropriate breed, based on careful consideration of adult qualities of the breed. Good discussion of delegating (and supervising) some dog care duties to the child and helping child suceed in these and of including the child in participation at obedience classes.

The chapter on "lifestyle changes" includes traveling with and without the dog (ie for the latter, finding a good boarding kennel), prevention and remedy for a lost dog, divorce and re-pairing (new romance), inability to keep the dog (and role of Rescue), care of the old dog, and inevitably death of the dog. The divorce section makes a heartfelt plea to avoid depriving the child of the dog --- now more than ever the child needs and appreciates a canine confidant and companion. Having rescued a number of dogs who completely lost their home because of divorce, I would add a hearty "amen!" The advice on death of the pet and mourning is sound : be absolutely honest and allow (encourage) the child to grieve without reserve --- and without any premature attempts at "replacing" the irreplaceable.

The chapter on "what kids and dogs can do" (together) is wonderful. Obedience class comes first, though the unhealthiness of over-emphasis on competition is warned against.

(To me this would be an opportunity to teach the child the wisdom of choosing its own goals : "little Gloria Marie-Ann may only care about scoring 200, but you have the right to choose to focus on making your dog steadfastly reliable and happy to please you." Throughout life, a child and an adult must choose their own goals, which may be different from the goals of others.
After basic obedience, Agility is "at the top of the list because it is the most fun." (And since writing this review, I have seen a number of children who did wonderfully in agility class -- often better than most of the adults.) Other enjoyable sports and entrepreneurial adventures (pet sitting, grooming services) are described.

The final chapter, "questions kids ask" is enlightening and very heart- touching.


In conclusion, once again I recommend this book to every prospective dog owner and every prospective parent. I consider it essential reading for every breeder and every rescuer, as we must be able to adequately advise on these issues. This book does a fine job of portraying the shear pleasure for a child, as well as value to a child's development, of inclusion of a dog as member of the family. I believe this book would encourage parents to include a dog in their family and to provide responsible care for that dog. By all means give it as the ideal birthday gift to the child who yearns for a dog but whose parents are hesitating. Good emphasis throughout on concern for the dog's rights and welfare, as well as recognition that the dog is a genuine member of the family.

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Becoming Best Friends

by Jane Leon DVM & Lisa Horowitz, Berkeley, 1992

This book is of only moderate value. The dog behavior information is similar to that presented in Dogs & Kids , but the latter is more upbeat & more comprehensive. However it does contain useful veterinary information and information on cats which is not included in Dogs & Kids. I can't really judge the information on cats, as I am not very knowledgeable about them, but it sounds fairly reasonable.

This paperback, despite its title, is really only about avoiding dangers and troubles between child and pet dog or cat. Author Horowitz got into the subject when "12 months ago my dog took a nip at my child", a nip which her further description makes plain was provoked by pestering (or worse) from the child. So her emphasis is on bite avoidance (which is certainly a legitimate concern). Co-author Leon is properly concerned with the various medical issues, ie potential problems from cross-infective parasites and zoonotic diseases. There is very little conveyance of the benefits of pet companionship for the child nor of the shear enjoyment. I do not believe this book would tend to encourage parents to include a dog or cat in their family; more likely it would dissuade them from doing so.

The information on toxoplasmosis (which can cause birth defects) is highly valuable to any woman who is or may become pregnant, whether or not she has a cat in her own family. In fact since the parasite is transmitted from cat feces, a pregnant woman's fetus is at far greater risks from deposits of neighborhood free-roaming cats (ferals or neighbor's non-house-confined cats) than from the well vetted family member house-cat. There are damn few places in this world where you can live without free-roaming cats in the neighborhood, though a cat-chasing dog can certainly keep them from using your fenced yard as their toilet. Wear gloves when you garden and wash your hands carefully afterwards.

The section on "synchronized attention", ie giving the pet more attention when baby is present and less when baby is absent, is valuable. This little known tactic is a good preventative measure for parents of infants. It takes conscious effort to do because it's pretty much the opposite of doing what comes naturally, but it's really not all that difficult to do..

In conclusion, you might want to peruse this book at your library. Or buy it if you have $5 to spare. It's an easy read, and has enough useful information. There is only lukewarm description of the benefits of pet companionship for the child as compared to vivid depiction of the dangers. I do not believe this book would tend to encourage parents to include a dog or cat in their family; more likely it would dissuade them from doing so. Worse, there is no emphasis on duty towards the dog or respect for the dog as a genuine member of the family. When push comes to shove, the dog is viewed as expendable. To dog-lovers that is simply not an acceptable view !

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Child-Proofing Your Dog

by Brian Kilcommons & Sarah Wilson, Warner Books, 1994

This slender paperback is , like everything written by Kilcommons and Wilson, well written, full of sound advice, and full of love and respect for dogs. I would definately recommend it. The language is that of dog-people, rather than parenting language, which sounds more familiar to those of us already involved in dogs who are less experienced with children.

The introduction emphasizes the benefits of pets for children, and the need for a foundation of comunication with the dog achieved through training, which in turn enables you to take meaures to prevent as much trouble as possible.

Chapter I, The Family dog , concerns itself with making a wise choice of a dog, including the choice whether or not to have any dog at all. The qualities to be sought are a dog whose behavioral qualities fit your lifestyle, a dog who tolorates (enjoys) being touched and who forgives mistakes, a dog who calms himself easily, and one who likes people (friendly , well socialized). The authors emphasize that a dog is work for the parents, with demands on their time, energy, and money. The age of the child and of the dog are discussed, with advice that the child be at least 4 or 5 and that an adult dog can be preferable to a puppy. Excellent exhortation to spay / neuter all family pet dogs. Good material on sources for dogs, including shelters and Rescue groups, and on the process of selecting a calm relaxed individual.

Chapter 2, Before Baby, is a good guide to all the changes you may need to make well in advance of the baby's arrival, including changes in schedule for the dog, role of excercise for the dog as a probable preventitive for trouble, having the dog "work for a living" (ie unspoiling the dog), any changes in the dog's furniture rights / invitations, ending wild activities inside the house, "dethroning" the dog as center of attention (plus advice to give dog ore attention in baby's presence and less in its absence after it is part of the family). and of course, exposing the dog to well behaved and well supervised children.

(Again, I point out that all of this should begin before the pregnancy begins. Ideally , it should be well under-way with substantial success before you cease using reliable contraception.)

Chapter 3, Bringing Home Baby , is about teaching the dog to be relaxed and sensible around the baby. This includes of course instructions for the first meeting of dog and infant. The material on teaching the dog to accept child-like handling , ie is-handling such as grabs and hugs, is good but really belongs in Chapter 2 instead, as this should take place in advance of the conception of the child. Likewise that on accustoming the dog to childlike noises. Good sections on common problems and solutions. Among the potential problems, this book is candid about the unpalatable truth about dogs' reactions to baby feces and diapers.

Chapter 4 , the Family Dog and the Toddler, is primarily about the need to supervise,ie SUPERVISE OR SEPARATE !!! , including to anticipate behaviors of dog and child before they happen, and to abort (interrupt) and correct undesirable behaviors from either dog or child, and to educate the child by your actions as well as your words as to how to treat a dog properly. Short sections on specific problems and a good section on teaching the dog to welcome someone approaching his food bowl while he eats. Finally an admonition on recognizing if you are in trouble and being prompt to seek qualified help.

Chapter 5, the Family Dog and Young Children, first states clearly that it is the parents , not the child's , responsibility to provide all needed care for the dog, then explains how the parents can help the child learn to do various bits of dog care with guidance and supervision from the parent. This includes advice on children's involvent in training and advice on good games for children to play with dogs and bad games that should be discouraged.

Chapter 6, Dog-proofing Your Child, is about teaching children to "read" dogs and recognize and respect the signs that a dog is afraid or unfriendly. These skills are especially important with all dogs outside the family.

Chapter 7, Warning Signs, is about all the signs that you and your dog are heading into Trouble (that's Trouble my friends with a capital T and that rhymes with B and that stands for Bite !), and about getting good professional help. And finally , alas, about "when all else fails."

The chapter of Conclusions is once more a tribute to the value of dogs in our lives.


In my opinion, this is an excellent book and I reccommend it. Its brief and to the point exposition will appeal to those who might not tackle a larger more detailed book, yet all the essential points are there.

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Living with Kids and Dogs ... Without Losing Your Mind

by Colleen Pelar, CPDT, C&R Publishing, 2005

This book is excellent ! It is clearly written and it incorporates key ideas from the best of current dog advice, as well as good understanding of stages of childhood development. The author includes a few techniques that are new to me ; if she invented them herself, I congratulate her on her ingenuity and practicality.

Ch 1 : You can conquer the chaos. This gives the theme that living with dogs and kids is not always easy, indeed can be chaotic and hard work, but it can be done and the rewards are great. The keys to sucess are three : building good relationships, managing dogs and kids so as to prevent oppertunities for trouble, and training the dogs and the kids. All 3 are needed to keep the kids safe from the dogs and to keep the dogs safe from the kids.

Ch 2 : best friend or bad choice. Only get a dog if YOU, the parent (especially the mother) really WANT a dog and are willing to be responsible for it. But don't get one if your child is afraid of dogs ; work to cure the fear first. Choose a dog based on behavior , not on looks. (That's advice I give often myself !) Choose a dog who is social and outgoing, ie loves people and trusts them, is not fearful, is not a resource guarder, and whose energy level matches yours. Don't get a pet store puppy or an internet puppy ; reasons not to do so are well stated. Puppies are hard work and must be extensively socialized ; an adult can be a better choice.

Ch 3 : preventing bites. Parents have to take responsibility to supervise and intervene, being especially vigilant with kids under 12. The majority of bites could be prevented by parents. Parents must be able to read dog body language. Even "good dogs" can bite and will bite if stressed enough. Teach kids "the freeze dance" , ie teach them to "be a tree" when dogs get to close or too excited ; teach this without the dog with parent taking role of dog, then introduce the dog. (Her "freeze dance" is a game similar to one I thought up and have discussed with parents ; her version is probably better than mine.)

Although dog bites are all too common, dogs are very far from being as dangerous as many other things common in children's lives. A few Centers for Disease statistics on sports injuries, bike injuries, drowning , etc are included. "A child is over 100 times as likely to be killed by a parent or caregiver than by a dog" (note : actually it is more like 900 times !)

Ch 4 : spotting (and preventing) serious behavior issues. Some dogs who are fine in adult only homes have issues that make them poor choices for living with kids. Dogs who guard food or objects are a bad risk because sooner or later the child will break the rules and reach towards something the dog is guarding. (I would add that even well instructed and intelligent adults sometimes forget, reach , and get bitten.) Learn to recognize canine warnings by reading canine body language.

Teach dogs to do Trades, ie give up or drop an object in exchange for a reward. Do food bowl guarding prevention excercises : go up and add a yummie treat.

Most bites are based in FEAR : highly fearful dogs are bad risks for life with children (or with anyone else). Be aware of flight-or-fight issues and always give dog room to retreat. Work to build dog's confidence and decrease fearfulness. Dogs with high prey-chasing drive (or high herding drive) can be a risk because kids are always moving (especially moving fast, eg running, bicycle, skateboard). Dogs should be taught to accept and enjoy human touch on every body part. Dogs should NOT be encouraged to be "protective," which too often means the dog is encouraged to make his own decisions about when to be aggressive (unlike correct Protection training which emphasizes handler control and decision-making). Do good house-training, because inadequate house-training is often the first step down the slippery slope to the Pound (and death).

Ch 5 : essential equipment. Baby gates, baby gates, and more baby gates so you can separate dogs and kids or keep either out of dangerous areas. Cordless or headset phone so you can follow the action without having to give up the precious pleasure of an adult conversation. (As a phone addict, I can appreciate that one !) Crate training so the dog regards crate as a haven and kids are trained to not invade that haven. Diaper pail with locking lid, because dogs think dirty diaper is a great delicacy.

(Author does not point out that swallowed diaper pieces can lead to intestinal obstruction leading to emergency surgery or death of the dog.)
Good discussion of collars, leashes, etc with a favorable mention of head halters. Bathmats for every room and travel : dog is taught to lie on the mat, thus staying out of trouble. Storm doors even if it isn't winter, as a reduction of likelihood both doors will be open at same time, ie reduces chance of dog being invited to escape.
(I call having two doors situated so that both would have to be left open to make escape possible an "airlock". A stretch gate can turn an entry square into a very good airlock. A gated and fenced walkway leading up to your front door makes a good airlock. Airlocks are good : they can keep your dog still breathing !)
Tethers can be strategically located inside the house so dog can be hooked up temporarily as needed. Tip-proof (or at least hard to spill) bowls will reduce the inevitable messes. Treats and toys for the dog, including food dispensing toys.

The author also has some equipment warnings. She warns against seat-belting a dog close enough to a child that the child can harass the dog. (Anyone who ever traveled with two children within reach of one another will understand this one !). She advises dogs not be present when child is in a swing set or baby swing, because of the rapid motion and child's vocalizations can be too exciting for the dog. She has some reservations about water crazy dogs sharing a wading pool with kids.

Ch 6 : babies and toddlers. Pregancy and infancy are not good times to bring in a new dog and especially not a puppy. Parents of infants are tired all the time, especially Mom. (note: pregnancy and lactation are phyically tiring, even if Dad does his full 50% of all other child care work.) . Dogs and crawlers or toddlers both require a lot of supervision and intervention. Infancy is a bit easier because the infant is not very mobile (and is usually in his crate , ie crib, or his X-pen, ie playpen), but infant will soon be a crawler and then a toddler.

However if you already have a nice dog (see Ch 4), you want to prepare the dog for the addition of a baby by preparing changes in schedule, respect for baby-gates, etc. Early pregnancy is the time to begin preparing your dog and training your dog for the altered lifestyle that will begin when baby is born.

(My only comment here is that this program of preparing the dog you already have should really begin before you go off contraception. It could take longer than you expect , especially if you need to make up for training you did not do earlier. And if you prove unable to train a dog, well don't expect to have any great success in training children : time for a spay or neuter, and I don't mean the dog.)

Teach basic obedience like Sit and Down, plus "go to your bed" (to settle and relax on the bath mat) , "drop it" and "leave it." The four most important changes in habits and lifestyle are :

First homecoming with baby and previous exposure of dog to scent and sounds : pretty much the standard advice, plus advice to have a third person to keep a jump-up dog from jumping up on you if you had a C-section or to have dog tethered (tied to something immovable) so he can't jump up. There is a special boxed warning about infant fatalities, though the author does not describe the underlying cause, which is the dog seeing the infant as a prey animal, nor the body language that might tip you off. NEVER leave baby and dog together unsupervised. She suggests keeping several food stuffed Kongs in the fridge so you can give one to the dog when the baby is on the scene : ie the baby's presence is to predict good stuff for the dog and thus the dog welcomes the presence of the baby. (Note this advice goes back at least 30 years to Dr Hart at UC Davis who may be the first to publish the advice that you give more attention to the dog when baby is present and less attention when baby is absent ; hard to do because it's the opposite of what you would do naturally without thinking.) Have the dog go to his mat to get him out of the way when you change diapers ; the author likes to do changing on the floor so there is no worry about a baby falling off the changing table (that makes sense to me).

When the baby becomes mobile, ie crawling , all the difficulties escalate. The child's motion can worry the dog, ie be threatening. Always give the dog a route of escape from the baby. Give the dog a safe haven, such as a crate. Don't allow the child to pull on the dog, lean on the dog, poke the dog, etc. Teach the child to be gentle.

(Note : young children, even those destined to grow up to be neurosurgeons or micro-mosaic makers, do not have much hand-eye coordination or much finesse in using their hands. If a child cannot yet color within the lines or use crayons without breaking them, the child may want to pet gently and yet be rougher than intended. Little boys get this fine hand control later than girls on the average.)
Keep the dog tired out with excercise if you can , recruiting friends or paying people to provide extra exercise as needed. If dog fetches, this can be an easy way for you to use up his energy while saving your own. "A tired dog is a good dog." (Note : however a badly over-tired dog can be as cranky as an over-tired child, so use some good judgement here.)

Ch 7 : preschoolers. "Preschoolers don't have enough empathy to understand how to be consistantly fair, kind, and gentle." (Note: they don't have the cognitive development and brain maturity.) Parents must do a lot of intervening and a lot of teaching. Model correct behavior, ie set a good example. Get a stuffed toy dog for hands-on practice for the child. Tell the child what emotions the dog is feeling. "It's hard for young children to put themselves in someone else's place. This skill takes years to develop." (True, and well supported by research.) Teach kids with emphasis on what they should do rather on what they should not do. Teach them what dogs enjoy by practicing together. Teach them what dogs don't enjoy, such as hugs, by vigilant supervision and intervention, followed by swift direction to do something that is appropriate for the dog. But there are some essential "don't"s that DO have to be taught. Don't allow children to try to pick a dog up, regardless of dog's size. (We rarely have to worry about that with adult Bouviers, though we do have to worry about the child sitting or lying on them or trying to ride them.) Don't allow the child to disturb the dog when eating or having a bone or when dog is sleeping. Teach kids that dogs don't like being stared at. Teach them to "be a tree" instead of running. If child hits or kicks, intervene and make clear that this is totally unacceptable.

(Unlike those demented parents who just smiled and murmurred in a soothing voice while their child kicked my Chelsea. Would I could have done a retroactive spay and neuter on them. I wonder if that child grew up to be a serial killer.)
Supervise supervise supervise and intervene intervene intervene. A parent's work is never done and is very repetitious. Never leave a child alone with a dog. (SUPERVISE OR SEPARATE !!!)

Manage situations to make trouble less available. Manage the food situation. Children are messy eaters and dogs are natural scavengers. The author advises that the dog be kept outside the kitchen (or other eating area) while children are eating so the child does not give its unloved food items to this convenient garbage disposal., then afterwards the dog can be invited in to do floor patrol. Don't let kids wander around the house with food in hands : some dogs think (or want you to think) that anything held at dog face level is being offered as a gift to them. Teach kids how to offer treats so dog can take them without tooth contact. Kids can think that any tooth touch is a bite and will say "the dog bit me" when the dog was being gentle and polite. (You certainly don't want a visiting child to report home that your dog "bit me" !!!!)

Ch 8 : Elementary Schoolers. "When you think of a child and dog as best friends, odds are the child is between 6 and 12 years old." This is a period of great learning and great stress for the child, so an uncritical friend is especially needed and appreciated. However some kids will pester a dog without respite, so the dog needs a safe haven to retreat to. Kids this age have more understanding and have more empathy for the dog , but they still make mistakes and still need some supervision. They are NOT mature enough enough to take responsibility for the dog's care, though they can and should participate by doing some chores with supervision. They are not mature enough or strong enough to walk the dog by themselves, especially if the dog becomes excited, eg by a cat running out suddenly. (But the child could walk a well behaved dog if the parent held a second and longer leash as back-up control.)

Children this age often put themselves into potential danger with dogs (as with other aspects of life, because they still don't have much judgement or impulse control). You must really know both your child and your dog well before you risk any unsupervised activities. Because dogs and kids can both be too exuberant in play, teach your children how to "be a tree" and be ready to re-direct the dog. If they do not settle down, a time-out for both may be in order. You yourself must be calm in order to calm the child and the dog.

If the child is unfair or unkind to the dog, point this out and discuss the issue. For repeated or serious offenses, a penalty (aversive consequence) for the child is in order.

(And I would add that for any pattern of intentionally serious unkindness, psychotherapy is a MUST ! Childhood cruelty to animals is one of the major warnings that the child is shaping up to become violent towards humans when he is older. )

Some DOs and DON"Ts.

Teach your children how to meet other people's dogs.

Children this age can participate in dog training and can be great trainers with parental guidance and an emphasis on positive reinforcement techniques. (Note : at this age I trained my Min Pin to a very good Novice level of Obedience using Blanche Saunder's book "Training You to Train Your Dog." ) The author describes a number of good training games children can do with dogs, including hide and seek with toys (I also advise hide and seek with the child hiding) , fetch , and trading the dog a treat for whatever toy is in the dog's possession (to prevent any potential for the dog to become an object guarder). Tricks, especially rolling over, are also good.

Boundary rope training, something I have seen in no other book, is a way to keep the dog out of children's activities while letting the dog remain near the child. The dog is taught not to step over a visually distinctive rope, just as he has been taught not to jump over a stretch gate or an X-pen. The rope is in effect a substitute for a stretch gate, a stretch gate of negligible height. (This would be equivalent to teaching a dog to regard a hula-hoop as an X-pen, something I would bet many sophisticated dogs could be taught easily.) For excursions away from home, a length of rope is easier to transport than a stretch gate or an X-pen. I think this is a great idea. It's really something that could have been taught prior to the child's birth, thus something that could have been placed in Ch 5 or 6 ; probably the author chose to wait until the elementary school chapter because this is the earliest age that you would want to trust such a breachable barrier as your safety separation when not vigilantly supervising. Apparently the child is not to be taught not to cross the rope, but of course you could teach this too.

At the end of this chapter is a list of dog books children can enjoy reading.

Ch 9 : teenagers. Teens are way less likely to be bitten by dogs (though their risks for a host of other deadly perils increase at this age) because teens can interpret dog body language and monitor their own behavior to defuse a potentially bad situation. A teen is capable of taking on more responsibility for the dogs care, but many teens are so busy with other aspects of their lives that they don't have much time. (Note: this was written before Facebook and Twitter.) Even if the teen seems to spend little time with the dog, the relationship may be an important source of emotional support at this turbulent and stressful time of life. At a time when the teen and parents may frequently dissapprove of one another, the dog is still uncritically approving. (I'd think the parents may need this approval even more than the teen !)

Should you be thinking of getting a dog at this time, remember that the teen will soon be out of the house, but the dog will remain for another decade. As always, only get a dog if YOU yourself want a dog and will be responsible for its welfare.

Although a teen usually has more judgement than a young child, their judgement is often flawed due to brain immaturity. This can lead to risky or unkind behavior towards the dog. So parents still must remind the teen that they have a moral duty to protect the dog. If the teen is deliberately unkind, seek professional counseling for the teen ; cruelty at this stage is a serious warning of future violence.

Your child may be reliable, but watch his friends carefully. Teens in groups have poorer judgement and wilder behavior. If in doubt, take the dog to a private part of the house for a safe refuge. (Note : and teen judgement deteriorates sharply if alcohol or drugs are involved.)

Teens can be excellent dog trainers and may enjoy competitive dog sports, such as Agility, Rally, Flyball, or Freestyle (dancing with dogs). (I'd think this might be especially important to the non-athletic teen stuck in a high school where only athletes receive acclaim.) They may also enjoy non-competitive activities such as hiking , swimming, camping , or just hanging out together.

When the teen starts driving (gee, and you thought you were worried about dog bites), care must be taken about car safety for the dog, including safe restraint and strict observance of the risks of warm weather turning the car into a lethal oven for the dog.

Ch 10 : Saying goodbye. This chapter is about the aging and death of your dog (likely to happen at some point during their childhood / teenhood) and how to help your children deal with this. The cardinal rule is DON'T LIE ! Tell the truth but do so at the level of the child's understanding and in response to his questions. The situation of the dog leaving for reasons other than death (ie for behavioral reasons) is , of course, more difficult but honesty is just as crucial. There is a list of books for the children and some grief support web sites. As to getting another dog, again the key is to only get a dog if YOU yourself truely want one, and to be able to accept that this dog can NOT be a "replacement" for your irreplaceable departed dog but must be appreciated in his own terms and for his own sake.

Appendix A : resources. This is a list of excellent books , websites, and trainer organizations , and other resources.

Appendix B : food. Diet can affect behavior . This chapter is by Robin Bennett, a professional dog trainer. (You can also find more extensive information on diet affecting behavior in books by Dr Ian Dunbar and by Dr Nicholas Dodman, both of whom are veterinarians specializing in behavior.)


CONCLUSION : this is an outstanding book, and I highly recommend it. There is plenty of very good advice and there is nothing in it that would get you or your dog or your child into trouble. It condenses much good material from other sources and it adds a few ingenious new techniques.

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Reccommendations :

Of these 3 books, I would highly reccommend Dogs and Kids and also Child-proofing Your Dog as being highly encouraged for all who live with either dogs or children and need to be prepared for "close encounters"with the other. Either book would make a lovely and thoughtful "baby shower" gift or "puppy shower" gift. (They would also make appropriate wedding gifts, or bridal shower gifts, though I usually give a copy of "The Population Bomb" and its sequel "The Population Explosion" for such events, along with Ellen Peck's "The Baby Trap.")
I would NOT reccommend Becomming Best Friends, because of its rather negative attiude towards pets. Though the material on cats is not in the other 3 books, there must be a better book on "Kids and Kats" somewhere.
I also strongly reccommend Living With Kids and Dogs ... Without Losing Your Mind, which was more recently published . It covers the basics very well and adds a some newer knowledge and a few techniques that I have not seen elsewhere, perhaps invented by the clever and astute author.

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site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 4/12/03 revised 5/22/07, 7/31/2016
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