Your Pet Question:
How old should my child be when we decide to bring a dog into the family?
Patricia Johnson, Barhaven, ON
The Expert Says:
Any age. But it’s important that you have good communication skills with your dog. The dog must be taught to recognize that the child is higher up on the pack hierarchy. Otherwise, the dog will not see the child as an alpha. Dogs can reach the same mental age as a four-year old child with the same problem solving abilities. Up until the child is about four, the dog is smarter than the child. Up until people reach adulthood, dogs see them as peers, puppies.
But the child has to be taught how to behave with the dog too. Hands are like teeth for a dog, so if a kid waves his hands in front of the dog’s face or pokes it repeatedly, the dog’s instinct is to respond with teeth. With the dog, you must be the leader. If you’re the leader in dog’s eyes, the dog will always listen to you.