By Laura Goodearl
I am frequently asked, “Laura how do you and your husband live so peacefully with four greyhounds, a toddler, an infant and a crazy old lab mix?” I realize that to some (including my husband) that this arrangement may seem a bit insane…well it is. However I have managed to make it work because I wasn’t about to give up my dogs or my kids. My husband and I adopted our first, second and third greyhound in 1998. Our fourth came to us in 1999. We already had our lab mix for several years prior to that. Our daughter Carson, was born in January of 2000 and our son Ryan, was born in June of 2001. Since the kids were born well after our canine kids were established in our home, giving up our dogs because of them was just not an option. Instead, we have worked at helping our canine kids through the adjustment to the new kids. In the two years since Carson’s arrival, my greyhounds have learned how to live with a chatty active toddler and a squealing, gassy baby. We took some simple yet important steps during our introductions and we keep up with training and discipline everyday (for both canine and human kids). Here is a list of “common sense” things that we have done that have been successful for us:
- We Never leave kids and greyhounds together unsupervised. Even if everyone seems to get along great, it only takes a second for a mishap.
- We make sure that our greyhounds are ALWAYS obedient. Of course most greyhounds are, but are they ALL the time? Obedience training should be on going, everyday, even if it is for 5 minutes.
- Our dogs do not run in the house, nor are they are allowed to get rowdy. We allow that behavior outside, away from our kids.
- We make sure that our kids are disciplined. Having a child that will do as he or she is told makes controlling interaction with the dog much easier.
- We teach our kids what part of the dogs may be touched and which parts may not. Kids should not be allowed to touch faces, ears, tails feet and legs. It is much safer to teach a child to pet (not pat) their dogs from the shoulders to the hips. This area is not as sensitive as legs, toes, eyes and noses. It also keeps the child’s face away from the dog’s face.
- We teach our kids that greyhounds, as big as they are, are not meant to be ridden like a horse. Little kids should not be allowed to hang all over a dog, even if child’s intentions are good. This practice can lead to a dog’s patience being tested.
- We do not allow our kids to give treats or toys to the dogs. Small children (especially toddlers) and dogs can have lapses in judgment. The child may want to share a toy (or cookie) with the dog in one moment and later not want to. This leads to the dog thinking it is time to play (or eat) however the child will disagree. This situation can lead to little hands being surrounded by big teeth.
- We provide our dogs with a “kid free zone”. This zone can be another room behind a closed door or baby gate or simply in a crate. Either will work just as long as the kids are not allowed in that area. As all parents know, kids can be exhausting! Even to a dog. The noise, activity and unwanted attention can leave a dog longing for a peaceful place to rest. Your greyhounds will appreciate this zone more than you’ll ever know.
- We teach our children to NEVER approach or touch a sleeping dog without waking him/her first. Remember greyhounds were raised living/sleeping/eating in crates where NO ONE bothers them. The old saying goes “Let a sleeping dog lie”. LIVE BY IT!!! Make a practice of saying the dog’s name to wake him before petting him/her. This is a VERY important lesson that should be taught to everyone living in the house – especially children. A simple touch can startle a dog that is in deep sleep. Being startled awake can frighten anyone and unfortunately cause even the gentlest greyhound to grow or snap. If the dog falls asleep in the children’s play area, or somewhere other than his crate, put his muzzle on. This simple action can prevent a bite from a startled greyhound.
- We NEVER allow little hands or faces near the greyhounds during their mealtime. Last but not least, my husband and I know that WE are ultimately responsible for everything that happens between our canine kids and our human kids. They do not have the sense of responsibility that we have, nor do they possess the skills to use good judgment while they interact with each other.