jim burwell dog trainer

Kids and Dogs – What’s OK Behavior

So many opinions on Kids and Dogs.  Do you trust the kids? Do you trust the dog? What’s the answer?

Well, the answer is, you don’t trust the kid or trust the dog. So trust neither one of them.

Kids and Dogs: they both have to be trained and supervised.  And just like dogs, even when you’re not teaching your child, your child is learning something.

Kids and Dogs Learn by Watching

So, a good example of this watching and learning is this: If a dog owner gets angry at his child, or starts punishing the child frequently enough in front of the family dog, the dog is going to get really edgy when that child comes around.

By the same token, if that same dog owner punishes the dog frequently enough in front of the child, then the child could take on the role of punisher of the dog. Then that child will get into trouble when the dog tries to defend himself.

Kids an Dogs: What’s the compromise? What’s the fix?


The best way to get started and avoid any issues between your child and your family dog , is to supervise both when they’re together.

If you have an age appropriate child that you can supervise, then teach that child to do obedience training with the dog: simple sits and downs. They become a team: Dogs and Kids

Your dog will develop a higher degree of respect for your child, and that’s a huge bonus.

Then the other thing to do is to teach your child and your dog to respect each other’s personal space.

So, I gotta ask you, what did you learn from this video, and how can you put this to use in your home with your dog and your child?

What’s your way to get good behavior from dogs and kids?

Kids and Dogs – How to Make it Work

kids and dogsI was asked to evaluate a dog last nigh,t because this 6 yr. old shepherd mix had bitten their 2 year old girl.  It was a graze on the hand, but nonetheless, it brought serious consideration to the husband and wife about re-homing the dog.

The dog is really afraid of the child because, as many 2 year olds, she yells and screams, pulls his dog hair and pats him hard on the head.

She had wandered off down a hallway, out of sight of the mom who didn’t realize that the dog was laying down in a bathroom off the hall.  The little girl got excited, rushed the dog and the dog had no where to go, so he tried to back her off with a nip.

The parents had done an excellent job with obedience so the dog knew his sits and downs very well.  I suggested that they begin to make positive association with their 2 year old, the dog and fun things.  We outlined several things they could do on a daily basis – more on the weekend.

  • One suggestion was to load the child up in her stroller for a walk and take the dog on the walk with them.  The dog loved walks and the message was the little girl in the stroller meant walks, dog loved walks, guess the little girls wasn’t so scary after all.
  • While I was at their home, I experienced what an arm their little girl had, as she consistently threw toys across the room.  So I used this and suggested that mom use this in a good way with the dog (he loves to fetch balls).

    So the little girl can now throw balls for the dog – another good association from dog to little girl.The last item on the list for the time being was sits and downs with his favorite, high value food treat.  The more these are done in close proximity to their little girl—————————–all supervised with the dog on a leash———–the more the dog would become desensitized to the child.

Sometimes, with understanding, solutions are right there in front of us.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children.  And remember – “Opportunity Barks”.

Do You Know Why Your Dog May Growl at Your Child?

Think before you leap.  Many times if a dog growls at a child or shows “aggression” the dog immediately gets either sent to a shelter or worse, the dog gets put down.  While it is certainly not acceptable for a dog to growl or endanger a child, we sometimes forget the child needs to be taught how to behave with a dog as well as a dog needing to understand how to behave with a child.

Children’s behavior with dogs more times than not, is tough on a dog.   Small children like to throw things at dogs or try to pick them up by the neck.  Scary and uncomfortable for the dog and since they can’t say “hey please stop that”, they growl to indicated they are uncomfortable or scared.

There are certain reactions you can almost  expect out of dogs when children do certain things.  If the dog was given structure and was trained at an early age, he will be less likely to display these reactions.  Here are a few examples of how a dog  may react to children if the dog and the child are not trained to act properly:

  • If a child pulls the dog’s hair, sticks their fingers in his eyes or scolds and throws objects, the results may be growling, snapping or even biting.
  • Sometimes children tease dogs with toys and food, or they may stare at the dog and wrestle with the dog to the extreme.  This may result in biting and growling in the dog.
  • Children bring out prey drive in dogs with their high pitched screaming and running.  This makes the dog want to jump and chase.

You can see that there are different results for different actions that children perform.  Does this mean that the dog should be punished?  Not always.  Children need to be taught how to behave with dogs, just as dogs have to be trained.  It IS a two way street.

Also, adults don’t realize that their interactions with their children can affect how a dog behaves.  If a parent frequently scolds their child in front of the dog, the dog may become anxious every time the child is near him.  The dog becomes anxious, wants the child to go away from him because of all the scolding, the dog growls.

If your child sees you scolding and being hard on the dog, the child will assume that it is okay for the child to treat the dog that way.  A sure fire recipe for disaster.

The way you bring up your child to behave with dogs accounts for many of the reactions your dog has with your child.  A dog – young child relationship is difficult.  If you choose to get a puppy or dog for a young child then be sure to carry out your responsibility to make the relationship work and don’t always blame the dog.  Look at your actions and your child’s actions.  Give the dog a break, give him an opportunity to remove himself from the stress of children.  Give him a safe place in your home to escape to.  You like to escape from the kids at times don’t you?

Make sure the interactions between your child and your puppy or dog are always positive.  Teach both your dog and child well and you won’t have nearly as many problems and your family dog won’t get the short end of the stick and be sent to a shelter.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children, and remember “Opportunity Barks!”


When Dogs Growl at Children

One of the most common reasons dogs get sent to shelters, or worse, put down, is for their behavior with children.  Dogs and children – it is a 2 way street.  Yes, dogs need to understand how to behave with children, yet many parents neglect teaching their children how to behave with the dog—and the dog ends up on the short end of the stick.

Angry Chihuahua growling, 2 years old, in front of white backgro

Dogs growl for many reasons. Last month I had a dog training lesson with a client whose 3 year old dog,  would  growl at her 7 year old child.  As I began to evaluate the relationship between the owner, the dog and the child, I began to discover that there was not much structure in the dog’s life.  The dog had not been taught any obedience commands and free feeding seemed to be the order of the day.  This lack of structure for the dog had heightened the dog’s anxiety.

Throughout  the lesson there were continuous loud vocal reprimands from the mother to the child about the child’s unrulyness.  When a parent frequently scolds a child in front of the dog, the dog can begin to get very uncomfortable and anxious when the child approaches.  If the  mother scolds the dog using the same emotional energy,  the child then learns to interact with the dog the same way as the mother and again the dog growls and the cycle is reinforced.

Here are comparative behaviors between what the child will do to the dog and the possible dog’s reaction:

Child pulls ears, tail hair, sticks fingers in ears or eyes, hits with hands or objects, scolds and punishes.  The dog’s response can be:  growling, snapping, biting, submissive wetting in pups.

Child teases with toys, food, stares at dog, wrestles to the point of anger or rage.  The dog’s response can be:  biting and viciousness

Child encourages aggressesiveness towards outsiders and/or other dogs.  The dog’s response can be biting, viciousness, chasing, dog-fighting, cat killing, bird killing, escaping, barking.

Child teases dog with tidbits of food.  The dog’s response can be begging, over-protectiveness of food, food stealing.

Child plays tug-of-war with dog.  The dog’s response can be biting, stealing things, chewing.

Child screams and runs.  The dog’s response can be biting, jumping chasing (especially in the herding breeds such as border collies, australian shepherds etc.)

The child is constantly unruly.  The dog’s response is to mimic and also be unruly.

Child does inter-child fighting.  The dog’s response can be aggressiveness, biting, over excitability.

Child pets the dog too much.  The dog’s response can be mounting, aggressiveness, males urinating in house, biting other children.

It is up to us, as responsible dogs owners, to make sure we are not setting our dogs up to fail, because we fail to teach our children.

It makes sense to me.  What do you think?