When I was a kid, dogs were everywhere much as they are today, just not always on leash or under the influence of their owners. My family had lots of dogs. Believe it or not, at one time, we had seven dogs.
If a dog growled at me or one of my siblings, my parents’ response was, “What did you do to the dog to cause him to do that? He obviously doesn’t like it when you do that so, DON’T do that!” A lot has changed since then for both dogs and children AND adults.
It wasn’t that we knew more. It was mostly that dogs had more freedom (often off leash roaming) and we didn’t live with them as close intimates as we do today.
Early on in my dog training career, I realized the importance of education – both for myself and for my clients. Just about everyone I’ve worked with over two decades has had a less than complete and, frankly, a mostly inaccurate view of what dogs are saying and communicating with ‘body language’. It has become my mission (and I suspect that of most dog trainers) to bring into clear focus the blurry images dog owners have of their furry four-legged companions as a first step in the process of helping people to develop healthy relationships with their dogs.
A thorough understanding of dog behavior and a willingness to consider the dog’s perspective is critical for the safety and well-being of all. Teaching a dog how to live with people is a two way street —
(1) We must honor the dog’s need for personal space and also teach the dog to give us ours.
(2) Supervise, interrupt and redirect dogs at play with one another and with family members.
Where young children are concerned, parents and child caretakers must supervise children at all times while in close proximity to the family dog. SUPER-VISION means two eyes on the children and dog at all times.
If your child l-o-v-e dogs, while it’s a wonderful thing, please be sure to supervise interactions and look out for the dog’s well being too. If the dog is safe from the child, the child is more likely to be safe with the dog. A child can ask for help and more importantly, a child can be taught to understand what, when, where, why and how. A dog will never understand why.
Equally as important to recognize is that while puppies and dogs may tolerate touch – even when it is touch that ‘trespasses’ – as a healthy youngster, but when sick, injured or elderly, may have less or ZERO tolerance for the same touch. Dogs bite like kids hit each other. Regardless of headline news reporters and common everyday dog owners’ assertions, dogs always have a reason for doing what they do. They do not ever bite ‘out of the blue’ or ‘for no reason’. There’s always ‘provocation’.
Dog Behavior Education is a must for all dog owners especially those with young children. I invite you to check out my educational seminars that help both parents and children to make better decisions about their interactions with dogs–
Dogs, Kids, Babies, OH MY! ~ for dog owners expecting their first child and parents with young children looking to get their first family dog.
The Kids & Dogs Project ~ child-dog safety course launched in 2009 in Brookline.