Dogs and kids : When to be careful
« The bite came out of nowhere! »
« He was so patient with the baby! »
Accidents always happen when least expected. If a parent had any doubts that his child would get bitten by his furry child, he would not have left them together, right? Doubts are good. Even better is constant supervision. As parents, we should look for these signs from our dogs to prevent the worst, so that kids do not get bitten and that dogs do not pay with their lives for our mistakes.
- The dog growls.
Obviously, this is not a good sign : The dog is unhappy about the interaction, and he is communcating this fact very clearly. The problem is that no parents want their dog to growl after their child. The real problem is that we sometimes punish dogs for growling. If growling is a « NO », what is next to show their feelings? A bite « without warnings ».
- The dog looks away, yawns, turns his back, etc.
This dog is trying very hard to communicate how uncomfortable he is with the most pacific and respectful tools he has : Calming signals. Unfortunately, this language is often misinterpreted as « the dog does not care at all ». Dogs owners who are parents MUST absolutely understand their dogs calming signals. In fact, all dogs owners should.
- The dog ignores the child or retreats from all interactions.
The dog is just not interested. When the child enters the room, he leaves. When the child wants to play with him, the dog rather sleeps. Dogs crave interactions…from the people that they are comfortable with. This is clearly not the case here, and the child should not insist.
What should we do as dog owners and parent when we see these signs?
Education, education, education. We ought to teach our kids how to interact with dogs. But we should also be realistic with what we expect from them. Toddlers just cannot for instance interact with dogs perfectly, as polite interactions are new to them! Management is hence key. Older children should be taught calming signals, so that they are able to understand their dog, and even « speak dog »! Imagine if your child can respond to your dog’ calming signals! Of course, their relationship is now going to get better and better : They understand each other!
As for dogs, they first need to learn that being around the kid is great and not stressful. Rewards – food or games – whenever the whole family is together is a great way for them to make the association naturally. Never force anything on your dog, though. Nothing can be force upon in relationships!
If you have any doubts about your children safety, please consult a dog behavior specialist to help your family.