I have three dogs, a foster dog, a 20 year old cat and a two year old daughter. Crazy, right? I take my 2 year old daughter to the rescue events. She can be seen sitting in the puppy pen with puppies on any given Saturday out in front of a Petsmart. We walk our dogs daily, and yes… Ella walks Odie who happens to be a 95 lb German Shepherd.
Which brings me to the question I get asked more than anything else-
Are your dogs good with kids?
Yes, my dogs are great with this kid… Ella. Believe me, it didn't just happen overnight. Now Ella- she still has some training to go. Did I just throw Ella into the mix and expect everyone to get along. Ummm, no. We didn't do any of the fancy introduction stuff when Ella was born. We did not bring her dirty diapers home to the dogs before we brought our newborn little princess home, or her umbilical cord as some people suggested. That was a little much for me. We just brought her in in her little carrier and quietly put her down on the ground for everyone to see and sniff. I am not saying this is what everyone should do…you have to know your own pack and what works, but this worked for us. At the time, we had two shepherds and two poms and they all looked, some sniffed, a couple of kisses were given and that was pretty much it. Our life changed a little…the dogs had to learn to walk around the stroller, the love was spread out over one more creature, but things were still good. And then- she started getting around on her own. Three of four of the dogs learned to scatter. Our youngest dog, Violet learned how to play with Ella. We immediately started teaching mutual respect from all parties. In reality, it is a two way street between kids and dogs. As soon as Ella could understand we started teaching her that you must be gentle and slow around dogs and that if you hurt a dog, they will hurt you back, and they have bigger teeth.
I also STRONGLY believe that you should NEVER teach a dog to not growl at a child. I think you should teach a child that if a dog growls, back off. Odie growls at Ella often. Actually much less now that she is a more seasoned dog girl, but how else could he tell her that he didn't want her pulling his tail, or coloring on his feet, or whatever else she thought was cool. The truth is, Odie stayed out of her way for most of two years. Now that Ella is a little more predictable in her movements and actions, he is ok to be petted and loved by her. He was however, always quietly her protector.
So, when people call the rescue and say they want to turn in their dogs because their dogs aren't getting along with their kids, or they don't like the baby… I say… get in there, do the work. Of course the dogs don't like the baby. She is taking some of their attention. She screams. She takes food out of their bowls. She is a pain. But you know what else? Ella has these amazing creatures in her life that are teaching her respect and patience. She also has buddies to play with… and play they do. Violet and Ella wrestle. They play chase. They cuddle and sleep together. They actually make my heart bigger just watching them love each other.
These are things that every child should have. Dogs and kids do mix. Are my dogs good with all kids. No way. I keep my dogs close to me when we are around other kids and if someone wants to pet my dogs, they have to obey the rules of mutual respect.
And I will keep teaching Ella the same thing that my dogs teach her every day… kindness and mutual respect will take you far in this life kid.