Blending The Pack
Bringing a new puppy home is a fun time for all. The kids are thrilled to have such a fun, furry friend and the parents are excited to have a playmate for the family. Then reality hits. Soon, it becomes clear that puppies and kids don’t always mix.
Relax and don’t get yourself all stressed out. You can help the kids and the new puppy become friends, but first you must learn how the pack relates. Yes, there is a ‘pack’ now in your family.
In most cases, one of the parents will become the dominant ‘leader’ of the pack according to your puppy. You will be seen as the boss and puppy will look to you for commands. You will use this to your advantage during training and positioning the pack. The leader is usually the person who feeds and trains the dog or puppy.
As for the kids, to your puppy they are equals, and puppy may feel they have some control over their ‘equals.’ This means the puppy will most likely treat them like he or she would other puppies. In other words, your puppy will treat the kids in the family as siblings. There will be little respect, some fighting (biting), some yelling (barking), and probably jealousy when it comes to attention of the parents.
Most kids will be very excited around puppies. The puppy will see this as a sign of weakness. Just like they will see you as the leader of the pack, they will take this excitement as an indication that the kids are beneath them in rank and treat them as such. Playful behavior is expected, but uncontrolled excited behavior will confuse the puppy. This behavior needs to be corrected as quickly as possible. Besides training your puppy you should also train your children. Let them in on the training so they will know what to do.
The Chain Of Command
Your puppy needs to learn that they are not in charge of the kids. By letting the children in on the training the puppy will realize that they are at the bottom of the chain of command. It could become dangerous if this isn’t corrected as the dog will see the kids as their property and may try to protect them from other kids or people.
Puppy may also turn on your child if certain behavior is seen as unacceptable and may try to reprimand the child by nipping or biting. Puppy needs to learn that your children are NOT siblings and that you are in charge of everyone’s discipline. This is a good time to tell your kids what you expect them to do:
• Stand your ground – If your child is old enough, teach him or her to stand their ground when it comes to the puppy. If the puppy jumps they must not back up, crouch, or run away. They need to stand up tall, turning their back to show disapproval as well as protect their body, and showing they are actually in control and in charge.
• Never position yourself below or behind puppy – Laying on the floor with the puppy may seem fun, but it sets up the belief within the puppy’s realm of understanding that they are ‘above’ the child. The same situation occurs when entering the house. The ‘pack’ leaders and elders always enter the den first. When it’s time to come inside from playing, it’s parents, then child, then puppy.
• Tame your excitement – Puppy sees excitement as a sign of weakness. They can sense a human’s emotions and will immediately react in the way they feel is appropriate. You need to train your child to remain calm and in control. This will make a huge difference in your puppies behavior towards the child. That doesn’t mean your child can’t play with the puppy. It means your child must have a calm voice and controlled movements to remain in charge.
• Hold back affection – If there is a problem, your child should not be showing puppy any affection until the problem is solved. This is very important as your child needs to show authority and dominance. If your child shows affection too soon, it will again be seen as a sign of weakness and you’ll have to start all over again.
This will be a good start, but this complicated training principle can’t be placed solely on the shoulders of the kids. The parents need to get involved and show the puppy that the children are not at the bottom of the pack. The parents need to watch for this pack behavior and make sure the puppy knows what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable.
Understanding, and living, the pack mentality can be a lot of work. I won’t kid you, it is. Raising a puppy takes work, time, and patience. No one can deny the value of this training when you have a happy, well-adjusted adult dog that respects both you and your kids. This is a dog to enjoy!