Before you begin reading, it is important to understand that everything I’m about to say is rooted in the following belief:
Canine Life ≠ Human Life
During this Christmas season, I have had several conversations with people about dogs and kids. Holidays tend to put unfamiliar dogs with unfamiliar kids and, unfortunately, that sometimes leads to horrible consequences. For the sake of the following information and advice, let’s assume that the child and dog do not belong to the same household.
- To the PARENTS/ADULTS – I have seen many a child behave inappropriately around a dog. Please be teaching the children in your life what it means to interact appropriately with a dog. That means…
- no pulling on ears, tails, or lips
- no riding on a dog’s back like a pony
- no poking eyeballs
- always asking before you run up to a strange dog to pet it
- no sitting on the dog
- no removing toys/bones from the dog’s mouth unless you’re told it’s okay
If the child is too young to fully understand those lessons, then that child should always be ACTIVELY supervised when interacting with the dog. It’s your job as the adult to watch the child, watch the dog’s body language, and end the playtime as soon as you see signs of stress for the dog (or child). Even if the child IS old enough to know these lessons, it’s always a good idea to supervise playtime when your child is with someone else’s pet, especially if you are unsure how the dog will respond.
- To the OWNERS/ADULTS – I have seen many dogs with aggressive or impatient tendencies be allowed to interact with children far past the point when it was safe. Please be willing to put your dog away or use protective gear if you are unsure how your dog might react to the quick moving, unpredictable actions of a child. That means…
- utilizing a crate to keep the dog secure and separate from children (make sure the child is not allowed (or not able) to poke the dog through the bars)
- putting the dog away in a closed off room or yard away from the stress and commotion
- using a muzzle if the dog has no choice but to be out around children (make sure to introduce it properly and to get one that allows the dog to breathe/pant freely – don’t forget to take breaks and offer water)
You may be appalled that I would suggest the use of a muzzle, but if that muzzle keeps a child from loosing an eye, getting a scar, or even receiving a lethal bite, isn’t it worth it? And remember, just because a small dog or toy breed can’t kill you, that doesn’t mean it can’t take a child’s eye out or cause serious physical/emotional damage.
This holiday season, be wise when it comes to dogs and kids. Remember that dogs are still animals and that it’s your job as the adult to supervise, mediate, and sometimes restrict interaction between kids and dogs if there are any signs of aggression. A bitten child is not worth it!
Above – Photos from Tucker’s trip to Savannah, GA, spring 2012. We met this child on the street with his family. His father made sure to ask if it was okay to pet him and the kid had pretty good manners when it came to petting gently. You’ll also notice that I’m not standing several feet away talking to my friends or the kid’s family – I’m sitting right next to Tucker, watching his behavior, watching the kid, and making sure that everyone stays happy and healthy. You’ll see in the first photo that the kid went in for a “hug” of Tucker’s head. Tucker is okay with hugs, but not all dogs feel the same. If your dog is great with petting and head scratches but not a fan of hugs, don’t be afraid to tell people who approach you that a hug is not okay! (Photo Credit – Beth Anne Ho)