As a professional dog trainer, I hear and witness on a weekly basis bad child to dog interactions. Nine out of ten times the child was in the wrong, not the dog. Below I will write about a situation where the child was in the wrong and how the parent’s expectation of how much the dog can take was way too high.
In my professional experience, many, but not all dog bites to children took time to build up. Meaning the child usually does things to the dog over a time period. There are many signals that the dog gives. Some are excessive licking, avoidance responses, i.e. getting up and leaving, head turning, growling etc. The dog is telling us he is not happy. At this point the child should be taught to not do these things to the dog.
Some examples of what children do to dogs that shouldn’t be acceptable:
- Excessive hugging: as some dogs tolerate it, most don’t enjoy it.
- Ear and tail pulling: this can be painful to our dogs.
- Excessive excitement: running around the dog, throwing things at the dog, jumping on the dog all can lead to a fed up dog.
Years ago a friend from high school, we’ll call him Ted, was telling me about how his three year old son was tormenting the family dog. He said that his son would pull the dog’s tail, pinch her, slap her and run away. The part the disturbed me the most was when he said their dog started growling at the son. He then said, if she bites him, off to the pound she goes! I am not putting up with that!
I was floored! I couldn’t believe it. I really couldn’t. I told Ted, you’re dog is being MORE than fair. She is growling and telling you she isn’t happy. She could’ve went straight to biting him. But she didn’t. She’s in warning mode right now. If you don’t take care of it, she will. At that point, it will be your fault, Ted, not the dogs.
What needs to happen here is the son needs to learn how to interact with the dog. Then the son needs to be held accountable for his poor decisions.
As we teach our dogs how to behave around children, the children should be taught how to behave around dogs. There has to be balance on both ends.
With that being said, should a good family dog allow petting from children? Sure. But it should be done in a calm manner. We can’t expect a dog to take borderline abuse from our children.
Furthermore, people tend to set the bar too high on the expectation of what the dog should take from children. We have to remember they’re a living being, not a robot. They can get fed up too.
Dogs need to know boundaries, so do children.
Next week’s blog will be on “How Our Children Should Behave Around Strange Dogs”
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