Dogs & children go hand-in-hand. A lot of parents like to see their children grow up with dogs and carry those memories into their adult lives. When a new pet is brought home or when children meet pets they are not familiar and there are some key things to be aware of.
In today’s society we are accustomed to treating our pets like our children and they are truly family members and sometimes we forget the instinctual aspects of our pets and how they see our world.
Of course when our children meet a new dog whether it is bringing it home or meeting someone else’s dog, we do not want our children to get bitten. So here is some info on how a child might interact with a dog.
Petting and Giving Affection
When your child comes up to a dog, they should be calm or even let the dog come to them. Do not chase a dog that does not want to be petted. It is best to pet a dog from underneath the dog’s chin, rather than reaching over his head. We should teach our children to avoid staring at or looking directly into your dog’s eyes. This is a gesture of dominance and may be threatening to the dog. Children often want to hug dogs around the neck. A dog may view this as a threatening gesture, rather than an affectionate one, and may react with a growl, snap or bite.
First make sure it is ok to give a pet a treat. Sometimes if there are multiple dogs around, a fight over food aggression may occur. Also make sure the dog is calm and not jumping all over the place before giving a treat or the dog may jump up on the child to get it. A small child may be afraid and hesitate to give a dog a treat. This may cause them to jerk their hand away at the last second. The dog may then jump up or lunge to get the treat, which may result in the child being knocked down. Have your child place the treat in an open palm, rather than holding it in his fingers. You may want to place a hand underneath your child’s hand to help guide him.
Playing with the Dog
Children run with quick, jerky movements and have can high-pitched voices. These actions can increase the energy level of a dog, which may result in the dog chasing or jumping up on your child. Encourage your child to play quietly around a dog until both become more comfortable with each other. Your dog also needs to learn which behaviors are appropriate and which are not. Taking an obedience class can be helpful. If the child stimulates the dog and his energy level increase (which may result in bad behavior) and then the dog gets punished for it, your dog will learn that being around children always results in “bad things” happening to him, he may become defensive in their presence.
Your dog will not know the difference between his toys and your child’s toys until you teach him. Have your child take responsibility for keeping his playthings out of your dog’s reach. If, and only if, you catch your dog chewing on something he shouldn’t interrupt the behavior with a loud noise, then give him an acceptable chew toy and praise him lavishly when he takes the toy in his mouth. Do not give your dog objects to play with that could cause confusion, such as old socks, old shoes or old children’s toys that closely resemble items that are off limits. He can’t tell the difference!
Dogs can be possessive or food aggressive. Do not allow your child to tease or get down near the dogs bowl while they are eating, especially if you do not know the dog. If your dog is food aggressive, you may need to talk with a trainer or behaviorist to correct the problem. Make sure before you bring a new dog into the family that you have done your research on that breed of dog. Some breeds do better with children than others. After you have done your research and you pick out your dog, you need to consider that specific dog’s temperament and make sure that they are comfortable with children. If you are adopting a dog, see how they interact with your child before bringing him home. There is a lot to consider and to be aware of when a new pet comes into the home. But once everyone settles in and everyone knows the rules, there can be years of great memories to be made.