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Many dogs love children and are hugely affectionate and protective over them; but even if your child is your dog’s favourite person, they are likely to see their heads turned and loyalties split immediately if there is food involved!
Dogs are very food-oriented animals, and they don’t have great impulse control around food – if any – nor do they have good instincts for self-preservation when it comes to keeping themselves safe and not eating things that might be dangerous to them.
Children too are of course usually very keen on sweets, will often eat as many as they’re given, and have marked tastes and preferences about what they will and will not eat… And once more, don’t have a natural innate understanding of why we don’t just eat sweets and nothing else, why we moderate our food intake, and why dogs shouldn’t be allowed to eat everything that they want to without limitation either!
Additionally, much as children don’t necessarily want to share their sweets and would get pretty upset if someone took them away, dogs feel much the same; and this can be a problem.
For these reasons, it is important that children learn a number of set-in-stone “golden rules” about dogs and food as soon as they are old enough to be able to understand and follow them; and some of these pertain to dogs and human food and your child, whilst others pertain to children and the dog’s food, and behaviour when the dog is eating.
We’ll cover the five golden rules children need to learn about proper behaviour and respect for your dog and his food in another article, but this one will cover the five golden rules children need to know about dogs and human food. Read on to learn more.
First of all, even if your children know what type of treats the dog can have and that are safe for them, never give the dog a treat without permission. This is particularly important when it comes to dogs that aren’t yours, but also an important rule for your own dog too!
Too many treats are bad for dogs, and they also lose their value to the dog, as well as making them pile on the pounds.
Ensure that your child knows specific times when the dog can have a treat (for instance, if your child is the first one home and the dog is allowed a treat in greeting) or to ask first before giving them anything; and that they know what type of treats the dog has, and why they don’t just have sweets and scraps.
Dogs that are begging for a treat can be very convincing, and will often target children because they’re easier marks, as they may think the dog not having food too is unfair.
However, children need to be taught not to reward a dog that is begging, either for a snack or at the table, and both child and dog need to be told off if this rule is broken!
You also need to ensure the child knows that feeding the dog human food can be harmful to them, and that they’re not doing the dog a favour.
Some children view their dogs as something of a canine waste disposal unit, and convenient way to get rid of anything edible, without the hassle of going to the bin! They might use the dog as a convenient way to clean a plate, or to dispose of the evidence of those vegetables they were supposed to eat but didn’t want to.
Make sure that your child doesn’t do this, or think that dogs can eat anything without consequence, even though most dogs think so and would happily have a good go!
Keeping food out of reach of dogs is something that children should be taught from a young age. We all know how fast and opportunistic dogs can be about eating in general, particularly when they know they have a limited window of opportunity to do so and that they’re not really supposed to have something!
Children should be taught not to leave food out on a table when they’re not in the same room, and that they should as a rule not leave food in reach of the dog, even when they’re supervising it.
Finally, one of the most important but commonly overlooked things children need to be taught about dogs and human food is to always tell an adult if the dog eats something they shouldn’t have.
Even children who know that some things can be dangerous to dogs might be shy or reluctant of doing this as they’re afraid they might get into trouble for not stopping it from happening, or blamed for allowing the dog to do so; so it is vital to ensure that you let them know this is not the case.
Teach your child that they should always let you know straight away if the dog has eaten something they shouldn’t have had.
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