1. Properly socialize your puppy. I can’t begin to emphasize this enough. BEFORE the age of 16 weeks, your puppy must encounter all of the things he’ll see in his adult lifetime. If he doesn’t, then, in all likelihood, he’ll be terrified of those things later when he encounters them.
You must introduce him to friendly adults, children, old people, teenagers with blue hair, disabled people, people with beards, hats, bald heads, abnormal gaits, crutches, canes, and funny mannerisms. You must safely introduce him to cars, bicycles, veterinarians, loud noises, other animals, toddlers, stairs, water, vacuum cleaners, people in gorilla suits and other strange things. If the dog is not afraid of it, he won’t try to attack it to defend himself. A well-adjusted dog is not a biting dog. I can’t stress this strongly enough. There’s only about an 8-week window, here. Get those puppies out and socialize them to everything!
2. Teach your children to respect life. Show them how to properly touch, pet, and handle a dog. Young children should not be allowed to carry puppies. They want to, because they see you doing it, but they don’t know how to yet, and they lack the coordination to properly support the dog and keep him from falling. This terrifies the puppy, and if you want the puppy to grow up thinking, “When I get my adult teeth, Bobby, your butt is MINE!” Then just go on ahead and let your child continue to abuse the dog in this manner. NOT a good idea!
You must teach the child that handling the puppy in this way is not comfortable for the puppy, and the child must not try to hurt the puppy, because he is a living, breathing, loving organism. There is a direct correlation between children who abuse animals and those kids, grown up, abusing or killing other people. Teach your children well.
3. NEVER trust your young child alone with your dog or puppy, EVER. I don’t care how good or well-trained you think your child is, when you’re not looking, the child is wanting to do all of the things you won’t let him do when you’re around. “Well, let’s see… I wonder what REALLY happens when you pull the dog’s ears, or poke him in the eye with a pen…” The child is usually “low man on the totem pole” in the household, and if he can have control over the dog, it makes him feel less powerless.
You may not realize your child is pestering the dog until the day Bobby comes running to you, dripping blood, saying, “Doggie BITE!” At this point somebody’s usually in trouble, and the dog usually takes the heat. He can’t defend himself and he didn’t have witnesses. This is when you go and get a rolled up newspaper and swat yourself on the head a few times, repeating, “BAD Parent! BAD Dog Owner! Bad! Bad! Bad!”
4. If you have toddlers, create a safe “haven” for your dog. Use a baby gate or something that the dog can get over or through that the child can not. When the dog does not want to be bothered with the child, he will escape to his safe place, and everything will be fine. If the dog is not able to get away from the thing that terrifies him, remember that “Plan B” is to try to get that thing away from HIM. This usually involves lip lifting, growling, snapping, or biting, all of which are proper social signals to avoid REAL aggression, by communicating that the dog wants to be left alone. However, children are not puppies, and do not understand thislanguage, so it’s important to give the dog a place to go where the child
absolutely can not follow.
5. Don’t tie your dog out. Tied dogs are frustrated dogs. They experience “barrier frustration” all day long. This tends to make them hyper and testy. A child entering the area where a dog is chained could be easily knocked down or bitten. If one or more of your neighbours ties a dog out, don’t let your children go near these dogs. They are an accident waiting to happen.
6. Don’t play “idiot” games with your dog. Some people think it’s cute to tease dogs by pretending to beat up another family member (or a date) in front of them, or by playing “games” like “slap-boxing” with the dog. These mindless ways of torturing your dog are non-productive, and could cause the dog to become aggressive, or at the very least, teach him to snap at hands. Teenagers are usually the guilty parties in this scenario. Teenagers are children in adult bodies and that makes the teen years particularly difficult for kids. They feel all “grown up,” and yet they are forced to continue to live in the “nest” and are bossed around by other adults all the time. Sometimes the only other being they can have control over is the family dog. This is a scary thought. From childhood, if you encourage your kids to put themselves in the dog’s “shoes,” and treat the family pets with the respect and love that they deserve, you won’t have a problem as your child becomes an adult.
7. Enroll in a puppy social class. This will help establish you as the leaders and give the dog a job to do. If your dog knows how to perform a few simple control behaviors on cue, you can have him “go to his pillow” or “lie down” when company arrives, so that he doesn’t get over stimulated in a barking frenzy at the door. A dog can’t lie down and bite the mailman at the same time. Use productive behaviours to counter competitive, non-productive behaviours. Your instructor will also show you how to stop your puppy from chewing your hands and teach him that gnawing on your body parts is “a big NO NO.”
8. If you start to see any resource guarding behaviours, call a
professional immediately. You can not allow these behaviours to continue, as they often escalate. Resource guarding means the dog might growl at someone walking near his food dish, or might not let you take a bone away from him politely, or might even guard YOU so that other family members can’t get near. Your trainer will put you on a training program where you will desensitize your dog to the things that are “triggering” his behaviour now.
9. Get your dog used to having you touch and groom him at an early age. Dogs have to have a lot of care and grooming throughout their lifetime that involves touching, stroking, holding or restraining. If your dog does not allow you to touch him in certain ways or in certain places, this problem must be addressed. He may only be warning you with a growl, now, but if you let it be, there will come a time when you absolutely have to trim his nails, give him medication or otherwise restrain him, and he’s liable to bite. From an early age (as soon as you get him), accustom him to having you hold and touch his paws, stroke him and hold him on his side. By teaching him that this contact is not-threatening and not harmful, he will accept it without a second thought. First impressions are important, and you want first associations to be pleasant ones. Before you actually trim your dog’s nails, for example, practice holding the paws, rubbing the pads, touching the nails, and touching the nail trimmer to the nails. Sometimes it is better to use a simple nail file.