Whether it be working from home or wanting to appease children in lockdown, many families have decided to become dog owners over the last number of months, but how many of them know enough about their animal's needs, wants and behaviours?
Dog behaviour expert Samantha Rawson joined Ray D'Arcy on RTÉ Radio 1 to share her advice for new pet owners.
- Children and dogs should never be left unsupervised no matter how well behaved the child or the dog.
- Teach children to give dogs space and keep their face away from the dog's face.
- Teach children never to follow a dog underneath something or behind something, especially if they have something in their mouth because that usually means 'I've won my prize so get lost and leave me alone'.
- Dogs do not hug or kiss. This is human behaviour. Dogs are animals not humans although they do have feelings. Children can hug and kiss their Teddy Bears who don’t have feelings. Dogs lick their bottoms!
- A growl is a warning, and we should listen to the dog and respect their need for space. A growl means back off. (Note to adults: A growl should never be corrected as it is a warning system. Dogs will mostly only use aggression as a last resort).
- Spot the signs. There are usually some subtle canine body signals adults can observe before the child gets too close. Ears back, tail down, licking lips, looking away, panting, sniffing, turning their body away and moving away. If a dog moves away do not allow children to pursue the dog.
- Let sleeping dogs lie. Never disturb a dog when it is resting or eating. If in doubt put the dog out.
- Dogs have teeth and can bite if we do not respect their space and get too close.
- Do not allow small children to eat around the dog, if the children are eating the dog should be barricaded via a baby gate or put away.
- Never pull anything out of a dog’s mouth. Praise profusely and swap the item for a tasty treat. Fair trade is not robbery.
- Only pet a dog from the collar to the tail. Do not pat a dog on the head. Dogs generally do not enjoy being patted on the head, but they learn to tolerate and enjoy it.
- Never point or wag your finger at a dog. Dogs can feel threatened may behave defensively.
- If you allow the child to give the dog a special toy, the child cannot take it back.
- If you want to play by yourselves without dog, the dog must be put away in its designated safe place. This includes the garden and playing on the swings or the trampoline.
- Children should be taught not to raise their arms over their head, if you are holding something the dog wants, as this encourages dogs to jump.
- Children should only play with dogs through toys. The dog is not a toy for the child, likewise the child is not a toy for the dog. All interactions should be through toys.
- The dog can be kept on a trailing line so that you always have a means of controlling the dog.