OK, STOP! This one is a very dangerous one and it contributes to the hundreds, if not thousands of injuries that happen to children on a yearly basis. Remember that word I mentioned earlier? “Temperament” (Personality, traits, character and genetic tendencies) plays a huge role in how dogs can interact with children.
Children are not very good at understanding dog language. Children are also by nature very curious and “touchy”. This could lead to one of two things: A really stressed out dog or a really injured child. This is how many children get injured or worse, at the grips of the family dog, also on a yearly basis. Dogs only have a few ways to tell you to stop: Body language signals and their teeth. If you’re thinking “Well I grew up with a dog when I was a kid….” save it! That dog you grew up with may have been OK with you hanging off its ears, it doesn’t mean every dog should be held to that standard. Some people like hugs, some hate it. Dogs are no different.
If you want to build a strong bond between your child and your pet, it can be done under supervision and by teaching the child to respect the dog’s space and boundaries. This will set the child up to more meaningful relationships with animals in the future and dare I say, with people as well. Not to mention you’ll get the added bonus of potentially saving your child from potential injuries. I have two younger kids who love our dogs and they have a fantastic relationship. I am not warning you off kids and dogs interacting. Just advising that you teach them to respect the dog and its personal space.
Big No-No’s of children-dog interactions: No hanging off the dog (any body part) No mounting or riding the dog (Not even once! your dog wont enjoy it) No disturbing the dog when it’s eating or sleeping.
No touching the dog at all other than appropriately petting it under the supervision of an adult.
If this sounds strict, I’m sorry but you don’t need a dog. You need a stuffed animal for your child. You’re the responsible adult. Any likelihood of misunderstanding between dog and child is entirely preventible. If not, you’re at fault. Not the dog or the child.
Here’s an example from an acquaintance of why this is so important: A toddler, maybe 4 years old, liked to go up to the family dog and pull his ears when he slept, grab his muzzle, tickle his chin, sit on his back, bump his head as a form of “petting”, laugh real loud by his face, while the parent taped it, thinking, “awww how cute.” All the body language cues were missed. The dog freezing, holding his breath, watching with big eyes, moving his head away while still laying down…subtle cues to show agitation. Fast forward a month: Christmas morning. The dog was sleeping by the tree and the kids came down to open gifts, happy and loud. The dog woke up and obviously feeling stressed and anticipating another tugging situation, bit the first kid on the face, drawing blood. Not the child who bothered him, just any child. The dog was put down.
Doesn’t seem fair, does it? We as parents get stressed at times and need a break. So do animals. Children and dogs can be best buds, but please teach them boundaries and respect. like the phrase says, “let a sleeping dog lie”.