We’ve all seen it, a toddler being a bit too tough on the dog, pulling its ears, its tail… Sometimes the toddler thinks it’s funny, and hopefully the dog is patient and loyal to it’s pal. When the habit continues and becomes worse, where the toddler is continously kicking and hitting the dog, some disciplinary action is necessary, immediately.
Kids use their arms and legs to express themselves and test their limits. Because they are learning about power, they use their own with younger or smaller victims when they can. A strong reaction to their behavior tends to reinforce this behavior rather than to stop it.
Remove the dog to safety. Talk to the dog – “you don’t like to get kicked and hit.” “Kicking hurts you.” “I’m sorry Johnny kicked you.” “I know you just want to play with him.” Tell your child that he can play with the dog when he is ready to play gently.
Redirect your child to an activity, such as kicking a ball outside, which is an acceptable activity. Give your child other choices as well – kicking a soccer ball, hitting a tennis ball, pounding play dough, hitting a punching bag. Tell your child that he can do any of those things, but, he cannot kick, hit, or hurt the dog.
Removing the hurt child, or dog in this case, puts the emphasis on the hurt one, not on the misbehavior. The more a child gets attention for a misbehavior, the more likely he is to repeat that behavior because he has learned that he gets attention from what he has done.
You’re Not Alone
Almost every child expresses him or herself in physical ways. They are not born with innate sympathy or empathy for others and must learn them by experimenting, and trial and error. Parents need to guide their children into acceptable behaviors.
“[By the age of three, a child will have] control over his aggressions, his appreciation of companionship, and his altruism will usually have become established.” (Dr. Benjamin Spock, “Dr. Spock on Parenting,” p310)
While children need discipline, of course puppies should learn the ropes and rules of the house at an early age, especially in a home with young children. If you are adding a pet to your family, consider these great Northern Nevada trainers and resources for information:
On Command Dog Training
Dog Training by PJ
For those of you not in Northern Nevada, PETsMART has great training courses for dogs – click here.