A child’s relationship with a dog is magic. The family dog can be a child’s confidant, friend, playmate and companion. However, this relationship can be endangered if both the child and the dog are not taught to respect each other. A successful relationship between a child and a dog is fostered through respect and understanding of a dog’s normal behavior. Children can be bit or trampled by a dog if the dog is not taught to respect the child. Similarly, dogs can be harassed, hurt or abandoned if the child is not taught the appropriate way to behave with the dog.
Children can pester even the most mildest, well-behaved dog to snap or bite. Surprise is one of the biggest reasons why a dog will bite. If a child impulsively grabs the dog, the dog may snap out of fear. A dog will also bite if he cannot get away from a child’s pestering. Children often do not recognize a dog’s warning signals like growling, moving away, looking away and showing his teeth. When these warning signs are not heeded, a child can provoke a dog to bite. Dogs that are surrendered to a shelter due to biting have a poor chance of being adopted and most will be put to sleep.
Children need to be taught how to respect a dog. Through proper guidance and supervision a child can be taught how to be polite and gentle with a dog. Yet adult supervision and guidance is key; a child should never be left alone with a dog.
Children should be taught:
-Do not interrupt the dog while they are eating. Dogs can be territorial with their food and most just want to eat in peace. Similarly, dogs can be territorial with their toys and children should be taught which toys are the dogs.
-Respect and do not mishandle the dog. Dog’s dislike being mistreated and handled roughly and will react to rude treatment. Climbing on the dog, screaming or tugging on the dog is rude and most dogs are not tolerant of these actions.
-Respect the dogs “safe spot”. This is a place where dogs can go to be away from children and their excitement. This area can be the dog’s crate, kennel or a designated private area. Kids should be taught not to be bug the dog when they are in their “safe spot”. This way the dog has a place where he can be left alone.
-Proper actions and behavior around dogs. Fast movements and high-pitched voices excite dogs. When children stand up tall and stay still they appear to be more of an adult which registers a greater amount of respect with most dogs.
-A safe word the child can say if they feel uncomfortable with the dog. This word can alert the adult supervising the child and dog to interfere.
-Don’t share your food with the dog unless you want to be pestered every time you eat. Dogs should be given treats as a reward with a flat, still hand.
-How to take care of the dog. Children can be taught how to properly feed, water and groom the dog. By doing so they can learn responsibility.
No matter how well-trained the dog is or how well-behaved the child if they need to be always supervised. Individual breeds and individual dogs of the same breed have different temperaments and tolerance thresholds. All dogs have a limit and will not tolerate endless pain and torment that young children and toddlers can inflict.
If you want to learn more about proper interactions between dogs and children- check out Dr. Sophia Yin’s excellent blog on dog behavior. http://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/kids-and-dogs-how-kids-should-and-shou…
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