How to teach your kids to interact with dogs?
Photo by Cecily Chenault on Unsplash
You want your dog to be friendly and get along well with others. This is especially true when your dog is interacting with children. As important as training your dog to be kid-friendly, teaching children how to behave around dogs is much more critical. This will keep the child and the dog safe from injury.
How dogs and children interact
Anyone who has grown up with a dog in the home knows that a dog can be a child’s best friend. But as with all friendships, it takes time, learning, and understanding boundaries to make a dog/child friendship work.
Dogs may feel uncomfortable around young children because children tend to move erratically. When they touch dogs or grab them, they do so roughly. Additionally, unlike adults, children rarely speak at any consistent voice level. Out of nowhere, they start to scream or holler.
Children want to be affectionate with dogs. However, they do it by putting their arms tightly around the dog’s neck. For a lot of dogs, that is uncomfortable or even terrifying. Just put yourself in the dog’s position and imagine someone towering over you and then tightly wrapping their arms around your neck. It will likely invoke a fight or flight reaction.
Dogs are transparent when it comes to their feelings. Their body language tells you whether they enjoy what’s happening or if they don’t like it. Unfortunately, most children and quite a few adults don’t understand how to interpret what the dog’s body language is saying. Dogs may try to communicate their discomfort through body language or vocalize it by barking. When none of this works, a dog might nip at or bite a child as a weapon of last resort.
Teaching your children how to interact with dogs may also help prevent unfortunate injuries or attacks from other dogs. If you speak to a dog bite lawyer, they will tell you story after story of dogs that bit children. The truth is there are many reasons why dogs bite children, and it’s not necessarily because the dog is aggressive. However, regardless of the reason why a dog bites a child, the results are startling.
The value of teaching children how to treat dogs
The best way to prevent bites and help your child build a lasting positive relationship with dogs is to educate them on how to interpret the signs that a dog is not happy, teaching them how to play around dogs and treat them gently.
That being said, no matter how friendly the family dog is or how loving a dog is by nature, it’s still a canine. So young children should always have supervision when they are around dogs.
Adults should be the ones initiating interactions between dogs and children. Young children should not have unsupervised access to dogs.
Teach children to be gentle
Children must learn that although a dog may be furry and fluffy, it’s not a toy. When they pull a dog’s tail, grab its fur, pull its ears, or ride the dog like a horse, it often causes the animal discomfort and pain. Even the most tranquil of dogs has a threshold that, once crossed, causes them to react.
Children should learn that they can pet a dog with an open hand on its back, and if the dog turns over, they can rub the dog’s belly. A child should be taught how to gently rub the dog behind its ears or at the base of its tail.
Teaching children safe ways to show dogs affection
Humans like getting hugs and kisses. Dogs don’t. They don’t enjoy having their hands wrapped around their neck. They don’t necessarily like being kissed on the face either. From a dog’s perspective, this type of physical contact is a sign of aggression that can trigger a defensive reaction.
Training a child to interact with dogs will help them see that dogs communicate differently. If your child wants to kiss the dog, teach them to be alert to the dog’s body language. If they look away, show the whites of their eyes, or lick their lips, teach a child that this is a sign that the dog is not happy.
Happy child/dog interactions are possible
Children who grow up with dogs have a rewarding and enjoyable life. Many adults look back fondly on the puppy their parents brought home for them their entire life. Teach your child how to interact with dogs by being gentle and learning from their body language. This will increase the chances that your child’s dog interactions are happy ones.