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!”