How to Integrate a Service Dog into a Calgary Family
A service dog is a great companion that can help their human in many ways, and more people than ever are using their services. Depending on your needs, your service animal may keep you emotionally well or assist you with day-to-day activities. Unfortunately, children can be unpredictable around animals, so it’s important to know how to encourage good behavior when bringing home this new part of your family.
Slow Introduction to Children
New environments can be terrifying to all dogs. Children can be over eager and excitable. When your dog is new to your home, make introductions slowly. It may be a good idea to introduce the family before bringing your new service dog to a strange environment, like your house. Being in a new place will be overwhelming as it is, so, if possible, get them accustomed to the family before this happens. When you do bring the dog into your home, remain calm at all times. If you or your children are nervous, the dog will pick up on it and feel more anxiety. As much as your children may want to play with the dog immediately, tell them their new friend is going to need time to adjust before doing so. Don’t have dog toys out, as these may be a temptation for your kids to play with, but also may overwhelm the dog. If your new service companion has toys they are bringing home with them for a sense of familiarity, keep them in their crate to keep your children from taking them. Don’t remove your dog’s leash until you have seen the whole home together. End your tour in the room where they will spend their nights, and then remove the harness and allow them to explore that room independently or slip into their crate to adjust.
We love our dogs, and our service dogs are usually very well trained. However, no matter how excellent their training, a dog can still behave unpredictably. If your child is quite young, do not leave them unattended with your new family member. As we cannot predict how our dogs will act, neither can we tell exactly what a child will do. They may injure the dog when trying to play, and the dog may react out of fear or pain in a way that harms your child. Teach your children to leave your dog alone when they are sleeping. Again, a startled dog may do something to accidentally injure the child. Even service dogs will act out when scared or when they perceive a threat. Service dogs also require a strong hand when it comes to discipline and training, and children may have a hard time being stern when there is misbehavior. Always be nearby to provide discipline when needed, as your child may simply want to “forgive” the mistake, which can lead to behavioral problems down the line.
Caring for Your Dog
Dogs are constantly learning. There is no specified training time. They never stop listening and watching, which is why you need to make sure the entire family is up to speed on their training. Not only that, but this is the perfect time to bond as a family. Teach your children basic commands that they can use on the dog, like sit, stay, and down. We’ve discussed how all dogs, even service dogs, can be unpredictable. If your dog jumps, make sure your children know they are meant to turn their backs to your dog to discourage bad behavior. Give your children special age-appropriate tasks so they really feel involved. If they are old enough, have them supervise outdoor time in the backyard. Younger children can aid with dinner time by helping you scoop your dog’s food or freshen the water bowl. Teach your children to be consistent, as dogs, especially service dogs, thrive on consistency and repetition.
Dogs are part of the family, and a service animal is so much more than a pet. Kids can be excitable, and it’s important for service dogs to have stability. With a few precautions and well-planned rules, your new friend will have a much easier time integrating into your family.
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