Treat Puppy Right!

We recently adopted a puppy from the local Humane Society. My seven-year-old son has learned to be gentle and kind to our puppy, but my six- and four-year-old girls have not made a good adjustment. They still antagonize her and make her wild. We also feel they are too rough with her. We have explained how she is a puppy and needs love, not to be constantly riled up. We also find no matter what we say they do not leave her alone, always waking her if our backs are turned, picking her up, and so on. We love our puppy very much. But it is getting exhausting to have to constantly police my girls. --lisflip

Lisa Rosenthal says:
Here are some suggestions:

  • Set boundaries for acceptable interactions between the dog and the girls. If the girls don't respect this, take away privileges. If they do, offer positive reinforcement. Let them stay up past their bedtime or have a special treat like ice cream.
  • If you don't do something to stop your daughters' behavior quickly, your dog will start to set up his own boundaries and his own consequences such as biting, snarling, and growling. This isn't going to make anyone happy.
  • Enroll your family in dog training sessions. Bring your youngest kids along so they can learn and participate, too. You'll find that the instructor will reinforce the message you've been giving your kids.
  • If you have a crate for your puppy, teach your kids that this is your dog's "safe zone." Explain that just as sometimes they want to be left alone, the puppy needs his own space, too. Teach your daughters that this is a safe zone for your puppy where he can go to be alone. If you don't have a crate, one would be is an excellent investment.

Lisa Rosenthal is the author of A Dog’s Best Friend: An Activity Book for Kids. She’s been a pet owner all her life. Her four-legged friends include Peanut, Molly, Streak, Max, Sundance, Little One and Thumper.

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