Dog here. Yup, me, your bestest fur baby. It’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week, and local dog and child safety specialist, Colleen Perry, is sharing some information us dogs would like our hoomans to know. It’s about the tiny hoomans…. we need to talk.
Don’t you wish your dog could just tell you how they feel about your children? While our dogs are constantly trying to tell us how they feel, we often miss the subtle signals. Then the dog growls or nips, and we have no idea why. As a dog trainer specializing in dog and child safety, it’s my job to help parents teach both their dogs and their children how to interact safely with each other.
I’m not saying that your dog doesn’t like your child, but I am saying that your child does things that your dog doesn’t like. And there are simple things we can do to make your dog more comfortable. Which in turn makes your dog want to be around your child more, and then everyone is happy!
Here are my top 3 things all parents can do right now to help prevent future conflict between dogs and children.
1. Stop letting your children approach your dog.
Yup, you read that right. Your dog is not a toy, he is an independent being who is allowed to decide who he wants to interact with and when. Just like we teach children the importance of consent and personal space, the same goes for the dog. Why? Well because kids are unpredictable and dogs like consistency. Dogs also don’t like to be cornered or to not have an “out” when they are interacting with other dogs or humans. Kids tend to corner dogs, and instinctually dogs really don’t like that. The more you allow your dog to interact with children on their own terms, the more they will want to because they feel safe and confident.
2. ALWAYS supervise
ALWAYS. Especially if your child is under the age of about 10. Dogs and children should NEVER be left alone without an adult, because things happen! Kids trip and fall, dogs get stepped on, kids get stepped on, personal space gets invaded. Think of what happens when you leave siblings alone to play for awhile and how frequently you hear bickering, crying, etc. Your dog is not a robot and should’t be expected to “tolerate” things that make her uncomfortable, like hugs. Dog’s don’t want to be hugged. It’s weird to them. Yes, they may like it when you, their trusted and predictable adult hugs them, but what about your toddler who doesn’t have the motor skills to hug gently?
3. Give your dog kid free time
Just like the rest of us, our dogs need a break from the kids. We should be giving it to them. This can be as simple as teaching our children that when the dog is in their kennel or on their bed they are to be left alone. Sometimes gating off a room or area is necessary, and we can put either the child or dog behind the gate. As the weather gets nicer dogs and kids can take turns being outside for awhile. Remember to always give your dog something to do when they are separated, so they don’t think they’ve done something wrong.
So there you have it, three pretty easy things you can do right now to help your dog and child have a safer relationship. And don’t feel like a bad parent if you didn’t realize some of these things weren’t such a good idea. There are lots of great ways for dogs and children to interact safely, like parent guided games.
If you’d like more specific information, here’s a post I wrote about babies and one about toddlers. You can also check out the Family Paws Parent Education website and social media pages and follow my business, Pawsitively Waggin’ on Facebook.