Dogs and Kids
As dog trainers, one of the most common reasons we are called to assist families is to navigate the relationship between dogs and kids. The reality is this, most families have trouble with their dog and their children because of these two reasons:
They expect way too much of the dog.
They expect way too less of the kids.
When a child is bitten by the family dog, it is a super big deal and it’s not uncommon for parents to feel confused and completely shocked that the super sweet dog they have known forever, would do something like that. Whilst it all feels really random and out of the blue, us as trainers and anyone that can read canine body language, aren’t shocked it happened, we are shocked it didn’t happen sooner.
Children and dogs can definitely co-exist, however this is reliant on appropriate boundaries, education and the adult humans in the house to manage the relationship.
These are some of the biggest issues we see with kids and dogs:
- Too rough
The thought of seeing a gorgeous little toddler crawl around the room and try and ‘pat’ Fido, has most pet parents glowing with love heart eyes. For us dog trainers, we see an opportunity for that toddler to grab something they shouldn’t such as ears, coat, tail and limbs etc.
REALITY: 99% of kids would be unhappy if someone grabbed their hair too rough or pinched them or climbed on them. This is no different to dogs.
- Over love
Kids are still learning how to regulate their emotions both high and low. Whilst cuddles are super cute, most children are unable to understand when a dog has had enough. It is so important to understand your dog’s body language and when they are unhappy or uncomfortable in a situation.
REALITY: Just like it is highly annoying to have someone pinch your cheeks or smother you with affection, the majority of dogs do not actually enjoy being hugged.
- Stealing food and toys
Most households that have problems with resource guarding are because of the lack of boundaries that children have when around a dog’s toys or food.
REALITY: We teach our kids that stealing from other people is wrong, yet this is over looked when it comes to our dogs. Dogs are no different and like space when they are eating.
- Too loud
Understanding an appropriate volume is something kids are learning about and often they can get easily carried away with the noise they produce. Squealing, yelling and banging are all noises that can startle a dog.
REALITY: As humans we find loud noises irritating, imagine how this feels for a sound sensitive animal.
Expect More of Your Child
It is not unreasonable to expect more of your child in terms of proper manners. This is your responsibility as a parent to take the time teaching your kids what is and is not appropriate. If you have young children, it is important to ensure you set both your children and your dog up for success, meaning that the kids don’t have access to the dog or vice versa. Having safe children free zones such as a bed or crate gives your dog the opportunity to opt out.
Expect Less of Your Dog
The question I always ask pet parents, is “would you be comfortable if I did that to you?” and always, without fail, the answer is no. We have to respect that are dogs are animals. The way they communicate when they are uncomfortable is through growling, barking, lip curling and even biting. It is unreasonable to expect our dogs to be totally tolerant of kids, especially if they are set up to fail.