#3. No touching necessary.
Building a trusting relationship between children and dogs takes time and vigilance. It’s important to spend time together and include our family pups in daily activities with children. However, if we want to foster a trusting relationship, then we need to ensure that everyone and everything involved is enjoying the time spent together. Including dogs and children in pleasant, relationship building activities does not require physical contact or touching between the child and dog.
Believe it or not, your dog probably doesn’t enjoy your toddler using them as a pillow, patting their shoulder, laying in their bed, or reaching for their toys and bones. They will often tolerate it for some time, but that is something totally different than enjoying the interaction and building trust towards the child. There are many safe and delightful ways to have dogs and children grow comfortable with one another without physical contact. A step in the right direction is creating situations where the dog is relaxed and the child is playing, independently or with the parents, in the same room. That could look like story time with your little one in your lap and the dog resting comfortably and calmly nearby. Another possibility is playing fetch together with two balls - where an adult receives the drop from the dog and the child gets to throw the other ball or toy. How about a walk together if your dog is a calm walker? Using a multi loop leash or two leashes, so the parent is the primary handler, allows children to interact and participate by holding a leash or loop. If there is physical contact between dogs and young children, parent guided touch is recommended. There are many more ways to build a friendly relationship between dogs and young children through safe interactions and inclusion without actually touching the dog.
We’ve spent the past 13 years raising dogs and children together. In the beginning, it seemed like that bonded relationship between the dogs and kids would never come. Each dog and child relationship was different and needed nurturing. Yet, this afternoon my heart swelled with joy! As I watched my 4 year-old lay on the floor to rest, our sweet furry family member, Emma, chose to gently go over to snuggle and rest her head on my daughter’s side. I was delighted and proud to see the efforts we put forth in implementing consistent supervision, exercising diligent management, and patiently educating our children created an atmosphere for loving friendships between our furry family members and children to form and flourish over time.