Kids are fast moving, loud creatures nose height to most dogs. Kids can be scary and overwhelming for even well socialized dogs. While they can make great companions, rules need to be in place and adults need to supervise all interactions to prevent to all too common tragedy. Learn how to prevent dangerous situations...
Fearful Dog Behavior and body language of the dog can tell us if they are sacred of the child. Look for the dog trying to escape, slinking away, leaving the room, cowering or otherwise trying to avoid the kid.
Stressed Dog Stress signals from the dog include yawning, ears pinned back, lip licking and looking away. When you see these behaviors, the dog is trying to tell you that he is under stress and needs a break. The reason we are concerned about stress signals is because dogs can growl, snap or bite when they are under stress.
Growling or Snapping The appropriate sequence of increased stress or aggression is the growl, then the snap, and if that has not worked, the bite. There are many situations where the dog can skip the growl and snap and go right to the bite. This happens when dogs have been punished for growling, experiences pain, or feels they cannot escape. Growling is often barely audible in the beginning stages so listen carefully and be ready to respond if you think you hear a low growl.
Inexperienced Dogs They may have not been actively socialized with children or they may have had unpleasant early experiences with kids. These dogs pose the greatest threat because most bites are fear-based. Children the dog needs to be socialized with include all ages; infants, toddlers, youth, pre-teens, and teens. Ideally socialization with kids should start at birth with early handling and continue well into maturity, at least one year of age.
Unruly Children Yes, children must be provided with clear and easy to follow rules for their safety. They must also have an adult actively supervising them to ensure they follow the safety rules and receive intervention when rules are broken. Children should never tease a dog, never approach a dog’s food or toys, not pull the tail/fur, not run or scream, and offer a closed hand below the dog’s nose for the initial sniff. Most importantly, teach your child to ALWAYS ask if they can pet a dog before going up to the dog.
Lack of Control This can result from a few factors. First, has the dog had any obedience training? If it is a large dog or one that jumps up kids can easily be hurt. Dogs not on a secure collar and leash are also out of control – how will they be stopped and pulled away from a kid if they do give a warning growl?! Scan your environment before introducing the dog and child. More than one dog or one child is not a very controlled greeting situation.
With all this work and effort, you have done your part. Do not hesitate to tell a visitor, dog walker, family member or friend that their dog is not permitted to be out with your child, off the leash, or unsupervised. Not only are you protecting your child, but you are also helping to prevent a bite which will most likely lead to that dog’s death through euthanasia.
Katie Weibel, Master Dog Trainer. Providing training for companion, service and working dogs, sharing knowledge and expertise.