Courteous Canine: Dogs and Kids
by Jane Finneran, Certified Dog Trainer
Everyone thinks that dogs and kids are a natural combination. And they are—a natural disaster! Most children (maybe most adults as well) do not know how to instinctively act around dogs and need to be taught. I see Youtube videos online that make me cringe: Children sitting on dogs, stepping on dogs, hugging dogs, and kissing dogs, their faces inches from the dog’s fangs. The dog is giving all kinds of stress signals—lip licking, yawning, showing the whites of their eyes (whale eye), and yet no one is coming to the aid of the dog. Someone is across the room taking a video. When the dog is fed up, the video-taker will not be close enough to help. Dog bites always end poorly for the dog (the child’s face, too, of course). For example, rescues ARF works with often won’t take a dog with any bite history, no matter how much the dog was provoked.
Who likes someone jumping on them when they are trying to sleep? Do you?
Nope, not the dog either.
Who wants someone’s hands in their food?
Not the dog.
Who wants someone grabbing something of theirs?
Not you. And not the dog.
Who likes being stepped on or climbed on without even an “excuse me”?
No thank you.
Who likes to have their hair pulled or eyes poked.
I think not.
Who likes loud noises?
Not the sound sensitive dog!
Children should be taught to be calm and gentle around the dog. Running, screaming and flapping their wings (I mean arms) will only have the dog in hot pursuit. Then when the dog jumps up and knocks the child over or nips, it is always the dog’s fault.
Ideally, children can be taught to help with training the dog. “Sits” and “downs” are nice alternatives to jumping up. A game of fetch when the dog has learned to drop the toy is a nice outlet. Walking calmly with the dog and an adult is also a nice energy-burning outlet for your child.
It’s simple enough. Very young children who cannot follow directions should not have direct access to the dog. When children interact with the dog, the dog should be on leash. Maybe the toddler also!
When deciding when to leave your child alone with the dog, follow this guideline: Don’t. Children should never be left alone with the dog. It’s not that I don’t trust the dog. I recall an incident when a St Bernard mauled a child and no one could believe it, as he had always been a sweet, docile dog. On autopsy, the examiner found a pencil shoved down into the dog’s ear.
Teach your children well.