Children should always enjoy a higher social status in the family than the Doberman, but they may be too small and too young to be taken seriously as the dominant (or Top Dog) by the Doberman puppy or adult. Even a child who's taller than the family Doberman is not as well armed - or he or she had better not be.
The Doberman has much bigger teeth! Your child is relatively defenseless against the Doberman's weight, height and their teeth.
In a wolf pack, the young pups are outside the hierarchy. They certainly do not dominate any of the adults, but the adults defer to them and put up with all sorts of misbehavior because they are puppies.
An Alpha male wolf will carry food to his puppies and encourage them to take it from his mouth.
An Alpha female allows her puppies to climb all over her, to bite her tail and ears, to growl and snarl and act like puppies.
The Alphas protect the puppies from the youngest of their older siblings, the yearlings. Thus the subordinates learn to be similarly tolerant of the pups. This tolerance ceases abruptly when the pups hit adolescence, at around 6 months. From then on, it is up to each pup to find its place in the hierarchy, starting at the bottom. This is not a happy time in the life of a young wolf and most of them die, of starvation if not from dominant- inflicted wounds. So how do you apply this to your own families?
(Clue: Death is not an option.).
Do not expect a young child to dominate a Doberman or any dog, even a dog younger than the child.
Don't give the kid responsibility for your Doberman's behavior. Your child can learn to train the family Doberman, but an Alpha human must be present at all times, especially when both the dog and the child are young.
Food bowl train both the children and the dog, this is very important.
Children must leave the dog alone at mealtime unless Mom or Dad is right there. Do not tease a Doberman by attempting to control his food once it's been given to them.
If the dog is absolutely, positively steady on its Stay, the child can put down the food dish. Then step away when Mom or Dad says, before the dog is released. This tells the dog that the child has high status, but don't expect the Doberman to accept this. Stand by to assert your Alpha status and protect your child.
With adolescent humans, it's a judgment call (what isn't?) Some teenagers are really good with dogs and learn easily to train them. Others lose interest and wonder why the dog doesn't "listen" to them. The same teenager may be responsible sometimes and on another planet at other times. That's normal, human adolescent behavior. It is also normal for some adults, as well. Much training fails due to the OWNER's lack of patience. So nobody knows what to expect, including the dog. As a result the pooch learns to ignore or distrust the teenager. None of these outcomes is the fault of the dog. The Doberman is ultimately the responsibility of the adult humans of the family.
If you have a puppy, watch the relationships with the kids when the dog hits adolescence.
If your child has a good, buddy-type relationship with the Doberman, it's reasonable to hope it'll continue, but keep a parental eye on the situation.
If the dog starts pushing the limits (see Alpha Boot Camp Article), step in like an Alpha wolf with a yearling. You set the rules, and your adolescent dog is not allowed to come in as the Heavy with your kids. Period. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER allow a Doberman or any other dog and a young child (newborn through preschooler) to be together without an responsible person's hand within 6 inches.
Babies and puppies routinely hurt each other badly, for neither is old enough to know how not to.
The outcome of these episodes is not pleasant for anyone. The youngster learns to fear dogs, and the puppy learns to hate kids.
Keep your adult hands between your dog of any age and your baby.
Teach your baby to pat-pat the dog nicely and gently with an open hand, on its side or back.
Don't allow the child to touch the Doberman on the head or tail. Ears and tails are too easy to grab and pull; eyes can be poked with inquiring fingers. Keep the child's hands away from the underside of a male dog, for there are things to grab there, too. Praise your kid for doing it right. "You're a good dog petter!" may be more effective than "No, no!"
Teach your Doberman to lick the kids' hands but never to use teeth or claws. Be careful about faces. Dogs probably should not lick babies' faces, though they often want to very much for they are loaded with yummies after a meal. Be guided by your child's reaction. If the baby does not like having her/his face licked, don't let the dog do it, but if the kid loves it, OK.
Watch for teeth, if the yummies are dried on a bit. Pulling off hard, sticky yummies often requires teeth, from the Dobermans point of view. Mom or dad's hands must be right there.
Don't assume that anybody is going to remember these lessons for more than
a few seconds. BE THERE to protect your child and your Doberman puppy.
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