We had always hoped that our child would have a great relationship with our dog, Hercules.
Our dog Hercules is a four year old lab mix and he is such a sweetheart. He has licking problem, meaning he will lick you to death if you let him. He is super cuddly and loves his people fierce. He is a very important member of our family.
Hercules also has a huge barking problem. He can be very "pawsy," meaning he likes to grab a hold of you with his paws or whatever toy or bone he is chewing on and his has his dewclaws still so when he does this, it hurts. He also loves to play, which normally isn't a bad thing, but he can take it too far. He once was playing with our toddler niece, she had a ball and he swatted at it but missed and got her face.
It was after this incident and because we were trying to get pregnant at the time, we knew Hercules needed some extra training. We wanted to lessen his bad habits, especially the "pawsy" habit and barking. We were able to bring along our niece to help with some of the training and I really think it helped set the stage for when we welcomed Portland about a year later.
Hercules has been Portland's protector since he was in the womb. Read the Pregnancy Moment of the Week section to see why.
He continues to be his protector to this day, he gets very protective of Portland when we are out on a walk or if there are people in the house he doesn't recognize.
These two are also thick as thieves. True partners in crime. They started off with a mutual fascination of one another.
And it has since grown in to a playful relationship. Portland loves to throw Hercules' balls and Hercules knows how much Portland loves to watch him chase his tail so he will put on a show for Portland while Portland watches and squeals in delight.
Hercules allows Portland to grab his toys and bones from him. He doesn't react when Portland becomes a little too rough with his petting or accidentally steps on his tail. Hercules seems to understand and know that Portland is small and needs extra protection.
But. And this is the biggest but of all. Even though our dog and son have such a wonderful friendship, we still realize that Hercules is an animal and can be unpredictable no matter how well we have trained him so we fall some very simple rules in our home to ensure that both are in a safe environment and are respecting each other.
ONE - Provide A Safe Place
Hercules' bed and kennel are his safe places. We sometimes have trouble keeping Portland off of Hercules' bed but 99% of the time, this is where Hercules retreats when he has had enough and needs a break from his rambunctious friend. Portland has his room as a safe place that Hercules has always tended to stay away from.
TWO - Encourage Positive Play
These two love to play together and when it positive play, we encourage it. When Portland is being gentle and kind to Hercules, we let the play continue. Same goes for Hercules. During positive play time, we are telling Portland how sweet and gentle he is being with Hercules. Our tone is also a way we get across how wonderful Portland and Hercules are playing together.
THREE - Monitor
We are always watching and monitoring their play. We are making sure they are both being gentle and respectful of each other as well as watching our dog's body language to see if he has had enough, or to see if he is becoming too rambunctious. According AVMA, children are the most common dog bite victims and are most likely to be severely injured. And most of the time, children are bitten by a dog during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs.
FOUR - Reward
We use treats as a reinforcement for good behavior for Hercules. If your dog is food motivated like ours, this is a great option to encourage friendly behavior and play. And another great way to encourage a positive relationship is to teach your child to give their furry friend a treat.
FIVE - Redirect
When Portland and/or Hercules are not playing nice, like if Portland grabs his tail or is too rough when petting, we explain that what he is doing is too rough and hurts Hercules. We then demonstrate how we want him to pet and play with Hercules followed by praise when he does it correctly. If Hercules is being too rough, we break up the play, tell Hercules no and give him a break on his bed. Most of the time, Hercules is just getting too wound up that he needs to reset. We always have them come back together after a few minutes and praise both when they resume friendly play time.
We have loved seeing Portland and Hercules' relationship blossom and grow! It has truly been everything we wanted and hoped for for the two of them.
Now if only we could get them to stop sharing food...