Dissecting dog/child bites

As Elsa's guardian it is my job to make sure that she is comfortable with this little boy.  The Mother's job is to teach her child how to pet a dog correctly.  This was a wonderful meeting.  Both were very happy about it.  

I sat watching as my client explained what was going on with her dog and child.  The dog was a medium, black, female, mixed breed with short hair.  She probably weighed in at about 40-45 lbs but was not tall, maybe 18".  I sat on the couch beside the dog and the child as the Mother continued to give me details.  "They were fine but now Sadie has started to growl," she explained.  The dog (Sadie) use to be fine around the little girl but things had taken a drastic change lately.  "I tell her that Sadie is going to bite her, but she doesn't listen" she explained.  

As I sat and watched, the little girl climbed onto the dog.  The dog froze and my heart sunk.  "Take her off" I said calmly but firmly.  "Sadie does not like that" I explained.  I further explained that if she didn't step in and do her duty as a parent and dog owner "Sadie is definitely going to bite your daughter."  She looked shocked at my statement but sometimes you just have to tell it like it is.  

It is very sad when a dog bites a child; and most often it is very avoidable.  But owners just don't supervise or give their children feedback.  Most dogs bite children because the adults in charge have not told the child "not to bother the dog" and followed through with stopping them.  Many parents allow a child and dog to go off into their bedroom and "play" without supervising.  This is just an accident waiting to happen.  

No, not all dogs will bite children; but they most definitely are very capable of it.  Even dogs who love their children have limits.  They may love playing ball, going for a walk and even being hugged; but all dogs have things that they are not comfortable with.  Dogs give clear signs when they are even the slightest bit annoyed, uncomfortable or angry.  We need to know our dogs.  

The problem with a lack of supervision and feedback for our children is that you leave your dog needing to protect themselves.  That is NEVER a good idea.  We MUST be there to protect our child and our dog.  If your child annoys your dog and you do not stop them, your dog will.  It is as simple as that.  

How much should we subject our dogs to?  Each dog is very different, just like every child.  They MUST, absolutely be supervised when they are together.  Interactions need monitoring, feedback and control.  With these in place, both dog and child can learn how to interact positively.  

Many problems arise when a baby becomes mobile.  All of a sudden that creature in the parents arms is moving about on the floor.  That is usually when I get the call.  The child can now invade the dog's space; which up until that moment had been all their own.  These cohabitation things can take a lot of work but it is our job as parent and canine guardian.  

Dogs are not stuffed animals for children to do with as they please.  Teaching each how to deal with the other is our job.  Don't leave the teaching up to your dog; dogs do not teach the way that we do; and they have a full mouth of very sharp teeth.  Your job is to do the teaching of both, most definitely not your dog's job.