By Karen A. Soukiasian
Kids and dogs seem like a natural pairing. But to keep them both safe and happy, you need to understand how your dog perceives your child.
To your dog, your child may be nothing more than a pack mate. It is your job, to help your dog associate and elevate this mini human to Alpha status.
When dogs bite kids, nearly 80 percent of the time, it’s a bite to the face. That’s because when dogs naturally correct each other, especially puppies, they do so with muzzle bites.
Odds are, the child’s face is in the dog’s face; hugging, kissing, and exchanging drool.
The dog may see this as an invasion of their personal space. The dog is doing nothing more than teaching the mini-human doggie manners, the only way they instinctively know, using a quick nip!
Through the child’s eyes
Let’s face it, a child is unaware of canine pack rules and body language.
A demonstrative or playful child is harder to deal with because they do not comprehend how your dog perceives their loving approach as a possible threat.
Your child most likely will want to touch, hold pet, and play with your dog. There is nothing wrong with that…except, it is your responsibility to be aware of your dog’s body language and warnings, should they begin to become annoyed.
Never lease dogs and children unsupervised. As a responsible parent, you would never leave your child alone in a room with a running chain saw! You should never leave your child alone in a room with your dog. One of them MUST be with you at all times!
Through the dog’s eyes
Fact is, most dogs unless taught otherwise, perceive your child as nothing more than a pack mate. It is your responsibility to help your dog make the association that your child is a leader who should be trusted and respect.
Your dog would naturally correct a rude puppy with an open mouth muzzle pin, inflicting little or no pressure, but with lots of noise, drama and drool. When doing that with your child, what your dog may be doing, is teaching your child puppy manners, in a harmless way, they have invaded their space.
Genetically some breeds are less, or not at all prepared, to deal with stomping, throwing, yelling, threatening, running, falling, mischievous mini humans.
Inherently, your dog’s breed may have a low reaction threshold. If that is the case, he is going to be quicker to react to lower levels of perceived personal threats.
If he is genetically programmed to herd, protect, or chase, he will need your direction to help him learn children are not cows, sheep, invaders or vermin!
Many puppies leave their litter and go home with well-behaved adults who have few friends with children. They just don’t have the learning experience to prepare them for the erratic and unpredictable behavior of young humans.
They are often less prepared and unable to cope with the unpredictability of a rambunctious toddler or child. Combine genetic tendencies, inability to cope, and lack of experience with children, what you may have is a dog who could be unpredictable and possibly dangerous.
OK, so what can you do, as a responsible parent and dog owner? It’s actually very simple – set rules for kids and dogs.
1. All humans, mini or otherwise, are Alpha!
2. Obedience…your dog is to obey every one and thing on two feet. Get your dog and yourself, into a structured obedience class…and do the homework!
3. Alpha always goes first…through doorways, on stairs, in narrow spaces, such as hallways. Dogs wait their turn.
4. The mini human has feelings…no nipping, growling or biting!
5. Exuberant behavior is an OUTSIDE activity only.
6. Food and toys are not to be protected.
7. Food and toys in a mini human’s hands are OFF LIMITS!
8. Mini human should be avoided when they are too
9. Respect the mini human’s space. Access to the entire house is a privilege, not a right.
Mini human rules
1. The dog has feelings too!
2. The dog is NOT a toy.
3. The dog feels pain and is not to be hurt…no pinching, pulling, kicking, or biting.
4. The dog’s toys are not to be touched
5. Alpha… that means even the mini human, ALWAYS goes first.
6. Exuberant behavior is an OUTSIDE activity only.
7. Mini human toys and food, are not to be left where the dog can get them.
8. The dog is NEVER to be bothered when it is sleeping. Many bites are caused when the dog has been startled while sleeping.
9. Respect the dog’s space. Access to the dog’s sanctuary area (crate, bed, sleeping area) is to be respected…NO MINI HUMANS ALLOWED!
1. SUPERVISE, SUPERVISE, SUPERVISE!
2. NEVER leave kids and dogs alone!
3. Teach empathy to your child. Make sure they know dogs have feelings and feel pain too.
4. Enroll in a positive reinforcement, punishment-free obedience class with your dog. Teach both your child and your dog, “ENOUGH”, “EASY”, “SLOW”, “LEAVE IT” and “STOP!”
5. Be aware of your dog’s mood and body language. Most dogs will usually warn with a growl BEFORE they bite.
6. Teach your child to be a leader. Let them mix the dog’s food by hand, so your dog gets the message the mini human provides the food. Let your child give the dog treats, as a reward for following a command. Teach your child how to walk the dog, using leadership skills.
It takes to work to help kids and dogs get along. If your dog is not able to get away from the “thing” that annoys or terrifies him, get the “thing” away from your dog.
The majority of dogs communicate in the only ways they know how when they want to be left alone. They make a statement by dead eye staring, looking away, moving away, showing teeth and/or growling, all of which are appropriate dog signals of warning.
Children, unless taught, do not understand or notice this language, so it’s important to be there to intercede. Above all, give your dog a safe, private place to retreat, where the mini human absolutely cannot follow.
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