Introducing Dogs to Children
The bond between a dog and a child can be a truly beautiful thing. They seem to have a mutual understanding of each other and treat one another with gentleness and tolerance. Dogs tend to sense when a child’s upset, worried or anxious and they have a way of providing comfort in a non-intrusive and calm manner. Their love and understanding of children has been hugely recognised in the world of Autism, Blindness and Down Syndrome – vulnerable children of whom dogs have been proven to be a huge benefit to and can have a blossoming relationship built on appreciation and trust, often able to reach children who many others cannot.
Something that many families tend to forget, however, is that a dog cannot tell you when they’re frustrated, or when they’ve had enough and often they can only display this by actions, some of which are deemed aggressive. More than half of reported dog bites in the UK have happened to children, and almost 100% of them could have been prevented.
Supervision is Key
All dogs have the capacity to bite. Even if you have the friendliest dog in the world you should acknowledge that a dangerous situation could develop in mere moments. Although children mean no harm, many of their actions can trigger aggression in dogs.
Startling a dog: Any dog that is startled, maybe by his tail being pulled or a child jumping on their backs, may bite. This is called defence aggression and is a natural response in all dogs. Children should be educated on how to act correctly around a dog, a dog also needs to have his own space which he can retreat to when needed and it’s vital that this area is out of bounds to children.
Children and Boundaries: A dogs food is not something that a child should ever be near, and supervision is required at all times. Children also need to realise that a dog isn’t a play toy, they can tire, become frustrated and not want to be bothered – ensure that your children know the signs of when a dogs had enough and that you know the same – a straight tail, raised hairs, growls and whimpers mean you need to back off.
Don’t allow teasing: Many children can find a dogs display of frustration, fright or aggression amusing – such as when a dog bares his teeth (often wrongly interpreted as a smile by small children), or when a dog howls, whines or barks – although interesting noises for a child, they mean a dog is anxious and an anxious dog is one prone to snapping. A dog can be anxious if a child is teasing him with a chew toy, treat or titbit this absolutely should not be allowed.
Don’t’ Hug a Dog: Another thing we must point out is that, although it’s lovely to look at, you shouldn’t really let your kids hug your faithful friend. Studies have shown that dog’s really aren’t keen on this sort of affection, and would much prefer a pat or stroke to a cuddle or kiss. However soft you may think your dog is, you might want to know that research has shown that “Familiar children were most commonly bitten in relation to food or resource guarding and “benign” interactions such as petting, hugging, bending over, or speaking to the dog.” Food for thought we think. So make sure the kids know this and always watch your kids around your dog to make sure they don’t restrict your pooches escape route if they are getting fed up with the attention.
Dog Growling: Remember should the dog start to growl then it is time to back away. You should never ignore a growling dog as this is the dogs way of warning you he is not happy with that action and should not be ignored. Simply stop the action and back away otherwise you may end up with an angry dog – a growl is a warning sign . It is also wrong to punish a dog for growling
Done correctly, a bond can be forged between children and dogs that has massive benefits for both! After all, dog isn’t just man’s best friend- he can be everyone’s!