Four year old being too rough with animals - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 01-11-2014, 02:56 PM - Thread Starter
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What to do about a child who has been told over and over and OVER to be more gentle with the dog/cat/little brother. I have a four year old, who likes to chase the small animals (and sometimes his two year old brother) around the house (we have a cat and a Boston/Pug mix). If he happens to catch them sleeping, he'll try to jump on them, because he thinks it's hilarious to watch them scramble. I can't even describe how many freaking times I have nicely said, "when you try to jump on the animals it really scares them and you could hurt them if you land on them - please don't do that" or "you cannot do that because you could really hurt them". I've said this literally dozens upon dozens of times. I've tried pulling him aside and saying this. I've sent him to his room. I've yelled it. I've threatened spanking. And finally today, when he landed on the dog hard enough to make her yelp: I have spanked. A 35 lb. four year old jumping on a 17 lb dog is enough to break a leg, her back, or collapse a lung on this poor dog. What can I do to stop this behavior before a little family member gets seriously hurt?!  We are a normally a non-spanking household, choosing to use words over physical pain, but in this case, I just cannot tolerate his behavior. 

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#2 of 7 Old 01-13-2014, 09:41 AM
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I use removal with my 2yo if she gets rough with any of our animals.  If the dog/cat didn't instigate and she was the one harassing she gets put in her room.  I went so far as to tell her she would get bitten by the dog and explained how it would be a big "boo boo" and we talked about it and how she really didn't want to get a boo boo.  She's pretty good but I also have had zero tolerance form day one because as a dog trainer I know things can go hairy very quickly with even the best trained animals.  She's been feeding them since she could walk and carry a bowl at around 12mos, she helps some with grooming (heavily supervised and only certain tools because she can be rough when brushing), and has been working with me more recently on training where I stand behind her giving the dogs hand signals to ensure they "respond to her" and she gets to give the treat which builds trust in her so it's a nice bonding experience.  Our dogs are aussies, 50lbs each and one more tolerant than the other because I specifically trained her to be since I use her as a demo dog, but I would never expect any dog to tolerate constant nagging from a child.

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#3 of 7 Old 01-14-2014, 08:00 PM
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Unfortunately, this isn't a recommended solution, but this issue solved itself in our house in not very pleasant ways. We have an old dog (a black lab) and a 10 month old cat. Our 3 year old was riding his cozy coupe and accidentally ran over our lab's foot. It wasn't broken, but she wouldn't put her foot down for a few days and we had to make a few trips to the vet and get her painkillers and other medication. My son, who was really cavalier about treating her nicely before has been much nicer to her since this incident, when he saw her in pain (that he caused) and then was a big part of the recovery, going with me to the vet, giving her medicine, seeing how bad her limp was each morning. After that incident he's been much nicer to our dog, but continued to be really rough with our cat. She's VERY tolerant and would basically just meow once if he laid on her. I trim her nails regularly, though she typically doesn't use them. However, one day a couple weeks ago he was hugging her way too tightly, which I've been a broken record about telling him not to do, and somehow she scratched his arm and made it bleed slightly. Apparently I'd gone longer than normal between trimmings. We had a long talk about how animals can't tell us what they want with words, so they make noises and squirm when they don't like what we're doing, but if we don't listen, they can hurt us to get away. Needless to say, it's only been a couple weeks, but he's been much better about paying attention to her warning signs.


If you come up with a preventative solution, I'd love to hear it for my future 4 year olds (since my current one doesn't seem to hear a word I say sometimes).

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#4 of 7 Old 01-22-2014, 06:03 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks to you both for putting in your experiences with this! It's very difficult. I'm thinking he repetition of "don't do that" will someday sink in. At least that's what I've heard from pet loving family members...
@ researchparent - the situation with your poor dog's foot is exactly what I'm worried about, since my dog is tiny, DS would crush her foot! I'm almost hoping he does piss off our cat enough that she scratches him so he can learn his lesson without anyone getting seriously hurt.
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#5 of 7 Old 02-17-2014, 08:17 PM
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My four-year-old is the same. The weird thing is that at age two he was fantastic with animals, literally fantastic! He was sooo gentle and never pulled ears or hit or any of that. But now he just wants to play right with them all the time. He lives them, loves lots of animals, but he is just wild and rough.

I really don't know how to handle it rather except to separate them. I just give the dogs a way to escape.
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#6 of 7 Old 02-22-2014, 12:07 PM
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I have the same problem with my 9-year-old. I have asked her to be more careful with pets, over and over again.


With the rodents (hamsters, gerbils etc.) I gave up.


We often look after a sweet old dog. Mostly the dog is extremely tolerant, but as she gets older, she has begun to snap. Eventually I told my daughter that if the dog bit her, it would have to be put down. That finally sank in, and she's been more considerate since then.


We also look after a sweet old cat now and then. Today I told her I'll set up a new system. I'll fill a jar with £3 in coins (20p's?). Every time she tortures the cat, I will remove a coin. At the end of the week, she gets to keep whatever money is left in the jar. INSTANT result. She left the cat alone immediately.


I don't know if this will work for a 4-year-old. I try to avoid bribes, but asking her nicely has been 100% ineffective and the poor old cat has had enough.

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#7 of 7 Old 02-23-2014, 12:10 PM
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I know you said you've told him that the animals can get hurt when he is too rough, but its sounds like maybe its not sinking in? He also seems to not have any empathy for the dog (though, I can't remember if that is developmentally appropriate for a 4YO).

When my kids were toddler/preschool age I would sometimes give them very specific and graphic exaples of what might happen following a specific behavior. My older one didn't like carseats/seatbelts. It finally sank when she was about 3 that she actually needed it after I explained that without it, another car might crash into us, and she'll go directly into the windshield. I'd describe the broken glass, the blood, etc...

Tell him what you wrote....that he could break the dog's leg or collapse the lung. Describe what that would mean (i.e., dog won't be able to walk, will wimper in pain, mutiple trips to the vet, etc...)

Maybe you could find a video of an actual injured dog? Or explain that the dog may very well bite, and it will hurt a lot?

If that doesn't work, I would explain that the dog cannot live like this, and will need to go to another home. Then consider following through with it.

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