Kids will be kids and dogs will be dogs, but how can you keep your children safe and your pet happy?
The Nebraska Humane Society gets lot of questions from parents about which dog is best with a child and how to ensure the safety of children around a dog. These are good questions when you consider that 80 percent of dog bites are from a family pet and children are the most often bitten.
There are a lot of things to consider, including providing your dog with a safety zone. Every dog, no matter how patient and gentle, will need a spot in the house that will allow them to relax undisturbed by children and every child needs to learn to respect the dog's space.
To create a safety zone, choose a room where he or she can still smell and hear household activities, but is out of the main traffic flow. Provide fresh water, a yummy chew, favorite toys and comfy bedding. You can create a safety zone with a baby gate that allows your dog an entire room. A crate might be the best option if your dog is house trained. An extra-large crate will provide comfort and room. Exercise pens or X-pens work in corners and fold up when not in use.
How do you teach your dog to enjoy the safety zone? Feed all meals there, try a food dispensing toy like a Busy Buddy or Kong. If it's not meal time, sprinkle really wonderful treats in there and let him or her find them. After a few days of surprise treats, introduce short periods with the gate closed with your dog. Start with short periods, just five minutes, and gradually increase the time confined.
If your dog is anxious about separation, sit in a chair nearby and grab five minutes of reading as he or she eats and each time move the chair a little farther away. Your dog can go in the safety zone any time you think activity might be a little too much, like when children are at a fever pitch, have playmates over, you have company, you're not home or you have a babysitter. The key is that kids understand that when the dog is in the safety zone, we don't bug him.
If you need tips on bringing home a baby with a pet in the house, children/pet interactions or setting boundaries, stop by the Humane Society at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Questions, answers, tips and demonstrations are free.
The Nebraska Humane Society at 8929 Fort Street in Omaha is open weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. You can always look up animals and find information at nehumanesociety.org.