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4 Types of Troublemaking Kids and Dogs

Lauren Tilden
May 30, 2017

What to do when your child and dog make the same mistakes -- and messes.



Poodle or preschooler, the messes and mishaps can be the same. These rule-breaking bandits wreck havoc in the backyard, the park, and your living room.

We interviewed Alyson Schafer, parenting expert and author of "Ain't Misbehavin'," and Dr. Nicolas Dodman, BVMS, MRCVS, section head, and program director for animal behavior at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, for tips on handling both the two-legged and four-legged hooligans in your home.

Need more advice? Ask your nanny, pet sitter, or trainer for helpful recommendations.

  1. The Mud Tracker
    Whether the culprit is wagging a tail or a tush, puppies and toddlers are magnets for mud. If there is even one puddle in the park, they head straight for it. Your little one may love playing in the dirt with Fido, but that path of muddy paw and sneaker prints on your beige carpet makes you want to howl.

    Solution for kids: It's important to teach kids the rules of the house from a young age -- including that mud needs to stay outside. "Be prepared at the door to stop the child before they enter the house," suggests Schafer. Don't raise your voice or get upset, just be firm. "Ask them, "where does mud belong?" Do not allow them to enter the house until they have their boots or shoes off. If you are consistent, they will learn, and removing muddy boots and shoes will become automatic behavior."

    Solution for dogs: Canine fashion is a booming industry. You can find anything from rain boots for Chow-Chows to snow shoes for collies. So go ahead and turn your pup into a fashionista, and save yourself hours of cleaning in the process. "You can also put down a large bath towel on the mud room floor or in a bathroom and let the dog tramp around in there for a while," suggests Dr. Dodman. "They make bath towels for dogs for this purpose, but any large absorbent bath towel will do."

  2. The Food Thief
    We've all seen those YouTube videos where a dog swipes a burger off the patio table. Too bad the cameras aren't around when your kids are doing the same with the Girl Scout cookies. Children and puppies never get tired of stealing treats, and often pay the price with a tummy ache.

    Solution for kids: Why not give those sneaky thieves a taste of their own medicine: play hide and seek! Conceal cookies in a coffee can and stash the Doritos on a high shelf. Then swap the junk food for a healthier snack. Set up a trail mix bar with ingredients like dried apples, shredded coconut, and popcorn. Kids can put a small handful of each item in a Ziploc bag.

    On a broader scale, "sneaky behaviors are usually the sign of a power struggle between parent and child," says Schafer. "The parent makes rules and the child defies them in order to get their way and win. If you want to increase a defiant child's likelihood of cooperating and living within the family rules, try to gain their respect rather than force compliance." She suggests inviting your kids to help create reasonable house rules, such as no junk food during the week. "Children are more apt to live with limits they had some say in creating."

    Solution for dogs: Before you end up in a tug-of-war match over a turkey leg, make sure the pup can't reach the food. Place food high up or in difficult-to-open cabinets. Still counter surfing? "Try booby trapping a tasty countertop morsel," suggests Dr. Dodman. "Attach it to a fine thread which is attached at the other end to a stack of saucepans or empty soda cans containing pennies ("shake cans"). As your dog grabs the morsel to run off with it, the pile of cans will come tumbling down and the din will act as a scary deterrent curtailing future snatch-and-grab raids."

  3. The Co-sleeper
    Thunder, bad dreams and closet monsters make this troublemaker emerge at night. It's the co-sleeper -- and she's back to make sure you snooze through your morning meeting. Avoid the 3 a.m. sleepover and get some rest with these tips.

    Solution for kids: "If you don't want kids in your bed, enforce the rule," recommends Schafer. "Walk them back to their beds every time -- or put a child safety door knob on the outside of the master bedroom door, so they can't sneak in during the night. Consistency is the key!"

    Super Nanny suggests making a reward box for good bedtime behavior. Fill a cardboard box with bouncy balls, stickers and silly putty. Each time your child stays in bed the whole night, let him fish out a trinket with a net. Once he reaches five objects, offer a reward and start the counting again.

    Solution for dogs: Puppies have a knack for sniffing out the comfiest slumber spots. Too often, it's in the middle of your bed. Animal Planet dog trainer Victoria Stilwell claims a baby gate in your doorway is the key to a serene slumber. Even though your puppy can't reach the bed, being able to hear and see you will eliminate nervousness or anxiety. Although Dr. Dodman agrees with Stillwell's approach, he uses a different method for his own dog. "I prefer allowing the dog free access -- I just sleep like a pencil balanced on the edge of my bed, while my dog hogs the middle. He's worth it!" 

  4. The Rowdy Rascal
    Ever get tired just watching your kids jump, roll and run around the house with Fido? Keeping up with your animated preschooler and hyper puppy can be taxing. Here are a few tricks for taking the energy level down a few notches...or ten.

    Solution for kids: Children are very excitable and can easily get wound up and hyper. "Parents can teach children how to calm themselves by removing them from the excitable place to somewhere quieter and less busy," says Schafer. "Talk to them quietly, touch them gently, show them how to belly breathe a few deep breaths. Hug them gently and sing a quiet lullaby or some other mood soothing technique." 

    If your kids simply have a lot of extra energy, help them release it. Make up a minute-long story full of action verbs and have them perform it as you go. All the jumping, spinning and clapping will wear them out in no time. Yoga is also a great long-term option for channeling all of your child's excess energy. Look for classes taught by an instructor who is trained in yoga for children, such as YogaKids.

    Solution for dogs: To cure the craziness, try a game that requires your pup to release some energy. Stuff an old sock with kibble and tie a knot at the end; Fido will work on that for hours. Not enough? Learn a new sport with your pooch. Activities like flyball, agility, and disc dog can be performed in your backyard or with an organized group. Yoga for dogs (or doga) is also a fun trend that can help unleash your pet's energy.

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