Border Collies and Children
Border Collie Rescue
(Extracts from an article in “your dog”, August 2001, by Karen Bush)
LESSONS IN LOVE
Children may want to “smother love” a new puppy or a new dog, but its important to teach them both some ground rules from the start.
The arrival of a new puppy can be a particularly exciting time for children and there’s a great temptation to constantly play with, touch, and generally fuss over the new arrival.
However its important to understand that the newcomer is not a toy and must not be treated like one. With all youngsters, for the safety of them both, adult supervision is vital whenever they are together.
Some time should be set-aside in which to teach the children how to handle the pup properly. Children often want to touch and to hold – sometimes getting over-excited and winding the puppy up, especially if he’s a lively individual. A small puppy can also sometimes find a boisterous child rather overwhelming and intimidating. Where other people’s children are concerned, it’s also vital that you continue to monitor and keep control of the situation. If necessary, place the pup in a separate room when you have young visitors if you really feel it’s becoming difficult to govern their behaviour. It’s not always easy to cope with other people’s children without causing offence to their parents, and this is a simple and diplomatic solution.
Not all children think dogs are wonderful, some can be terribly afraid of them, no matter how small and cute their appearance, so don’t let your pup just bounce straight up to visitors. Smaller children are often not terribly strong or particularly well balanced and can easily be knocked flying by a bumptious pup romping around. Wherever you go in the future, you want your canine pal to be a welcome visitor, not to be responsible for setting up anti-dog tendencies.
Your pup isn’t just a new pet – he’s also going to be a member of your family so it’s important that everyone lends a hand, both in helping him to settle in and in learning what sort of behaviour is expected of him. Start as you mean to go on – it’s not fair to be inconsistent or to change things later and expect him to understand. You need to have already decided on some basic house rules, which everyone agrees to follow from the moment he arrives.
When drawing these up, involve children as well as adults, since it will give you the opportunity to explain the reasoning behind them and to explain that unless everyone sticks to them it could end up making the pup anxious, miserable or difficult to live with in the future. Points to consider might include the following:
Your pup should have a range of toys to play with which can also be used as food treats or training aids. Some – such as Kongs, which can be stuffed with treats, or activity balls, can help to keep him happily occupied if you have to go and leave him to his own devices for a while and will channel his attentions away from being destructive round the house.
A few suitable chewable items will give him the opportunity to satisfy this urge while he is teething; these might include rawhide chews or more versatile toys such as a Kong, which will double up as toys to be thrown, retrieved or for tug-of-war games.
It is important that the toys you choose are tough enough to cope with your pup’s attentions; they must be impossible to swallow whole, must not be wedged in the pup’s mouth or throat, and robust enough that pieces can’t be chewed off and ingested. Never be tempted to improvise with an old stick, as pieces may splinter off in the mouth, perforating the throat or the bowels.
Don’t leave your pup to amuse himself with his toys but spend some time each day with him, playing games with the toys. Make each session short but intense and finish it before he has had enough and lost interest.
Exercise a certain amount of common sense too; as he gets older for example, avoid throwing Frisbees or balls high up in the air above his head for him to leap upwards to catch. While you might admire his gymnastic ability and skill, the action involved could cause injury to his back.
Keep an eye on children while they are playing with the pup to ensure that games do not get over-rough, over-long or over-excitable – young puppies have a razor sharp set of needle-like teeth which can easily penetrate a child’s skin. A small puppy can easily be injured or intimidated by boisterous children, but as he gets bigger and stronger the tables can be turned.
You should take care that children do not use their toys in games with the pup. Many are unsuitable or dangerous for him, and if a cherished plaything becomes ruined in the process, there will certainly be tears!
As well as house rules it can be a good idea to devise a rota – your pup can’t fend for himself and is a 24 hours a day, 365 days a year commitment for many years to come.
Dividing duties between the human members of the household will ensure that he really does develop into a family pet which everyone can enjoy having around, as well as making sure that everyone gets a fair turn at caring for him without overwhelming him.
It will also avoid a lot of arguments among children as to whose turn it is to do what. Later as he grows older and the novelty wears off it also ensures that he does not become neglected, with everyone assuming that someone else has taken him for a walk or fed him.
Make up a timetable for various duties such as walking, feeding, grooming, checking water bowls and so on, and who is responsible for each day. Place it somewhere in clear view – on a pinboard in the kitchen, or stuck to the fridge door where it cannot be overlooked. Even small children can be encouraged to help with these chores, albeit with adult help and supervision.
Health & Hygiene
Sharing your life with a pup doesn’t mean that you also want to share his parasites or run the risk of tummy upsets. Paying attention to hygiene is an essential aspect of dog care, both for the well being of you and your family and your pet.
Some of the main points to consider are:
If your pup is to live a long and healthy life there are several aspects about which everyone in the household should be aware, including: