Children and Dogs
First and foremost, all interactions between your children and dogs should be fully supervised by you or another adult to ensure that the dog and child are behaving and playing appropriately together. Under no circumstances should children and dogs be left alone. It is important to socialize your puppy around children from a young age in order to build an acceptance and understanding of them.
Children move differently than adults and can present an overwhelming energy. When it comes to an adult dog, if you do not know the history of the dog it is best that you approach an introduction with great care and caution. Below I have listed some general Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to children and dogs.
Teach your children how to properly interact. Show them how to give affection. Giving commands, feeding, and even playing games with the dog can build a positive relationship with the proper guidance. Remember, being with the dog should be a privilege and can be used as a reward for good behavior from the child as well.
Maintain low levels of energy. Children who run around, scream, flail their arms, and play rough can trigger a dog to react or play too rough. Let the children and dogs get their energy out separately before interacting and cut off play if it escalates.
Supervise and encourage proper play. Keep your children off of the ground and have them play games that will help build the bond between the dog and the child. Games such as fetch or hide-and-go-seek are simple enough and can give you a good place to start.
Watch your dog's body language. The dog will show signals and signs of stress when uncomfortable such as: ears pinned, tail tucked, lip licks, stress yawns, whale eye, lifted front paw, avoidance, or potentially even shaking. These are signs that your dog has had enough. Never correct your dog for growling or showing appropriate non-contact warnings when they are uncomfortable with a situation. While we don’t want our dog to growl at our kids, it is a non-violent way to show discomfort and gives the dog a chance to communicate. Correcting this behavior may teach the dog to not give warnings before trying to bite or worse.
Never allow a child to torment a dog in any way: teasing, hitting, blowing air into the dogs face, yanking on the tail or ears, cornering, approaching while the dog is eating, annoying or pestering them while they are in their crate, wrestling, or pinning the dog down are all behaviors that should be stopped immediately if noticed and prevented from the beginning if possible.
Do not allow a child to approach a strange dog. Teach your children to always ask for permission from a dog’s owner to pet the dog. Show them how to let a dog curiously approach them, sniff them, and then allow the child to slowly pet the dog on the side of the body or on the chest if the dog is trusting. Not over the head, or grabbing the legs. Be sure to teach them to calmly avoid any loose dogs and explain the difference between a pet and a wild animal to them.
Don’t leave children alone with dogs at a young age even if you have a history of positive interactions and experience. This is a needless risk and can lead to disaster. Following these simple suggestions you can help develop a strong bond early on between your dogs and little ones to help ensure years of loving care.