The show Lassie first graced television September 12, 1954, creating the first romantic imagery of a heroic canine and their beloved child. Lassie was played over the years by Pal, Lassie Junior, Spook, Baby, Mire and Hey Hey. Saving Timmy from the well, alerting the powers that be to imminent danger and always behaving in the most admirable fashion possible.
Six dogs and a myriad of human actors over the years, more over CHILD actors. How did such perfection happen, so consistently on the big screen? How can we learn from this to accomplish the same? My purpose is not to promote a training style or one up any methodology but to instead focus on the way of being that brings this dream to life. We all want our children to enjoy the canine companion in their life, don’t we? Having a pet is proven to build character in our children.
Creating a sense of compassion and responsibility that comes with helping and caring for another. This is NOT just about the dogs and we are all aware of this, regardless of our willingness to act upon that knowledge.
I am not writing this only as a dog trainer but also as a mother of three beautiful, often wild, always beautiful children, all of whom have been raised as I have grown in my profession over the last 18 years. My 17-year-old son, 9 year and 8- year-old daughters have gone from infancy through childhood around a myriad of dogs, including our own. Both children and dogs have always had the same “recipe to follow” without fail when interacting and without fail this recipe has always worked. A little consistency and due diligence go a long way towards creating a mutually beneficial living situation between two completely different species cohabitating.
Recipe for success –
Children behave, teaching our children to act appropriately around dogs is simply good parenting. Unfortunately, social media videos seem to be normalizing completely inappropriate behavior in all of humanity. The tail pulling, playing keep away with the kibble, loving face to face stares into the pups eyes, barreling into a full body hug as the dogs eyes widen to the size of the moon, laying on top of a dog, enjoying a cupcake inches from a pups face, riding a dog through the house, screaming, ear pulling, and teasing is ALL the equivalent to asking for a dog bite. Overall if there is a video on social media justifying any of that, please consider it a tutorial on what not to do.
Train our children, teaching the appropriate way to ask a dog owner if it is okay to approach or touch a strange dog will go a long way towards avoiding issues. Not just for our children but for a struggling dog and their owner as well. Although frankly our children are more likely to be bitten by a dog in their own home or a frequently visited residence where space is limited, adrenaline high and supervision lacking due to over familiarity. Teaching our children to avoid a familiar but overly energetic & pushy dog is just as important as avoiding a strange and snarly one.
Permission does not equal a good idea. Just because we have been told it is okay doesn’t mean it necessarily should be done. As a rule only well behaved dogs able to maintain composure under their owners instruction should actually be approached by children. Anything less realistically runs the risk of going south in the form of anything from a scratch or worse. If you don’t want to risk it don’t, everyone will be better for the consideration. The old “don’t touch things that aren’t yours” still stands the test of time, being a great life philosophy with dogs.
Understand the age of accountability. This period of understanding is often about 5-6 years old in children, even then supervision and reminders must continue. However, an “age of accountability” isn’t a reality in dogs, because they are DOGS. Obviously, puppies and young dogs need more guidance but a dog’s skill with children is as much related to the aforementioned items as it is to the actual training and guidance they are given. The concept of “nanny dogs” isn’t an actual thing, it’s a concept (this has nothing to do with any breed, only the actual phrase and what it promotes). YOU are the nanny of both the actual children and the dogs.
Train the dogs, regardless of your chosen methods, just train them, fairly.
Teach them to be calm and behave appropriately with children, even in play. This means no mouthing the kiddos (they aren’t a snack), paws off the children. There is a huge difference between playing fetch respectfully with your 5-year-old and barreling over them with the ball in their mouth. Dogs should be taught to be calm around children, this is LITERALLY the key ingredient to having the lassie dream in your own household. Even those with no desire or time to do the actual training CAN attain a well-trained dog, with maintenance being the primary requirement moving forward in many cases. Services from Board & Train programs to fully trained family dogs for sale make having a well trained dog more accessible for all.
Choosing the right dog for your family is also vital. Some dogs are just not tempered correctly for children. Some families just do not have the time to set their children and dogs up for success. Thankfully there are dog training professionals around the country who either have fully trained family dogs available or can help you locate the proper pup and provide training to all family members moving forward. All impartially and with the family’s best interest in mind, just as much as the dog.
There are admittedly more factors that influence the success of dogs and children being together. Chaos creates chaos, it goes to follow that if the dogs and children involved are always over excited and lacking boundaries, problems will happen. A healthy relationship always involves respect and balance, this is no different and well worth the benefits a Lassie like relationship to help form a beautiful childhood. These efforts will pay off in the form of beautiful childhood memories playing in the parks of Austin Texas, with your very own “Lassie”.