children and dogs

Children and dogs

Elsa adores her babies but I am hovering over ever interaction.

Elsa adores her babies but I am hovering over ever interaction.

Just the other day I sat through a horrible YouTube. I had to force myself to watch it because it was something that I knew I did not want to see. The video was of a baby and a dog, a large dog. Another dog trainer had posted it with many appropriate warnings about content so I knew it was going to be bad. Sometimes you need to see things. I am a big believer that if we always look away; there are lessons that are never learned. Of course I did not need a lesson from the video but wanted to watch the signals that the dog was giving.

The video was of a child approaching the family dog. I’m not sure if it was the Mother or Grandmother’s dog or who was videoing. The child approached the dog on the floor and immediately signaled that it did not want to interact. It got worse as the child climbed up on the dog and the dog snapped, right in the child’s face and the video ended. The entire interaction gave me chills but sadly many people would see nothing wrong with the dogs behavior. Many people don’t read dogs well.

The dog gave lots of clear communication but the adult in attendance recognized none of it. The person videoing the interaction saw the dog as friendly. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of inappropriate interactions between children and dogs on the web. I can barely contain myself when I see them pop up on Facebook and read all the “awww so cute” comments. Some are cute but most are pushing dogs to defend themselves.

As a Grizzle bear style Mom and Grandma (Gabby) I am all about safety between dogs and children. Of course if a dog bites a child, the dog receives the blame. Often the dog is not to blame but the adult in charge who should be blamed. Yes it is wonderful when a dog loves children. I think it is the best thing in the world, because it is the biggest worry (for me at least). But even when dogs love children, they have limits; and dogs do not communicate the way that we do.

When we fail to supervise and control interactions between dogs and children, we fail both. It is our job to protect our children and our dogs. If you don’t referee interactions, you force your dog to defend themselves in a way that dogs do.

Dogs are dogs. They are animals with huge teeth and strong jaws that do not speak English. If they feel threatened they will react like a dog.

Most dogs give lots of warning but some give none. We tend to squelch growling from our dogs; feeling that it is in someway bad. A growl is a warning and an insight about how your dog is feeling. Without it you are blind. Without understanding body language, you are handicapped.

Children can and do weird and very inappropriate behaviors towards dogs. They are wise enough to understand a dog’s warning. It is our job as adults to protect children, all children with regards to our dog. It is also our job to protect our dog from everything. Our dogs should NEVER feel the need to protect themselves from a child. That is never going to go well.

When we protect our dogs from unwanted interactions we release them from being defensive. No one wants a dog to defend itself from unwanted child advances, no one. Safety first, should always be the rule around children and dogs. NEVER, EVER allow children to crawl on your dog.

Children and dogs can be a wonderful thing; but they can also be a horrible thing when left alone. Most bites received by children can be avoided. Dogs are not people, they are dogs and will act appropriately. Thinking that all dogs should quietly tolerate whatever a child dishes out is extremely unfair and foolish. Our dogs deserve more as do our children.


Dogs and children

This child wanted desperately to meet Luke and Elsa.  The mother was amazing and stepped in to show him how to do it.  I also reigned Elsa in to control her exuberance. 

A discussion on one of my Facebook groups has inspired this blog. I've written about dogs and children many times and I will continue to do so.  I cannot tell you how many times a post has come across my feed detailing a dog bite inflicted to a child.  Who then is blamed?  The dog.  

I am a mother and a grandmother and I adore dogs, obviously.  I love dogs in general; as a species and not just poodles.  I find them utterly fascinating; watching and reading canine body language runs to my core, it is who I am.  After years of training people and their dogs I have a lot of experience.  

One of my most common and recurring calls from many clients sounds like this "I think the dog is going to bite my child."   So out I go to meet the family; the parents, child and dog.  After a general greeting I sit and ask questions.  The entire time I am asking questions, I am watching.  The answers to the questions contain far less information than what is playing out before my eyes.

There have been several times when I've had to jump up and stop what was unfolding before me.  Indeed the family dog was going to bite the child.  But why?  Because the parents don't step in and discipline the child.  A child who continues to annoy a dog; climbing on, pulling at or simply interacting without parental intervention may very well be disciplined by the family dog. 

So who's at fault?  The parent carries 100% of the blame.  How many times have I heard "my dog would never."  No one should EVER say NEVER with regards to their dogs behavior.  Dogs are not robots; they are living creatures with boundaries and limitations.  Sadly most people don't get this.  

Even a quick and low level disciplinary action from a dog can be extremely dangerous.  If you do not protect your dog from children, then you fail them.  

                                Please understand this.  

If you do not stop your child from annoying your dog you are giving your dog the go ahead to discipline the child themselves.  

I am extremely cautious when children are in the company of dogs.  I do not care how amazingly wonderful a dog is when children are involved.  Things happen and dogs can react.  Just because a dog does not want to have a child sit on them or pick at their feet does not make that dog a bad dog.  Actions are the only way a dogs has to stop a child who is being left unsupervised by an adult.  

Children do not hear or heed warning signs.  Low growls, frozen posture, licking lips or whale eyes.  They continue on with their desire to interact and the dog is forced to take action.  Why?  Because the adult in charge was not paying attention or did not intervene.  

I do not want to hear anyone EVER say "that dog is going to bite you if you don't stop."  I have heard this too many times.  If you think that a dog is going to bite a child; it most certainly is.  Why?  Because you are not stopping the child.  You should not put the responsibility of not being bitten on the child.  "Stop that or else."  You need to stop the child, bottom line.  

It is our job to teach our dogs how to properly interact with children.  It is also our job to teach our children how to interact with dogs appropriately.  We are guardians; the ones who take care of both our dogs and children.  If you cannot watch all interactions between the two then put your dog away somewhere safe.  

It takes only a moment for a catastrophic accident to happen.  Sadly some accidents are just waiting to happen from a lack of supervision and intervention.  Don't have a lackadaisical attitude when children and dogs are together.  There should always be an extremely high level of caution and safety; no matter what dog it is.

The worse thing you can ever do to your dog is not respect them enough to protect them.  Don't be one of those people who think that your dog would never.  Don't be one of those people who think your child would never.  They can and they do, both of them.   

Canines and kiddies interacting

Elsa is obviously happy about this interaction but I am still there to protect her and the child if need be. 

This video was passed by me via Facebook, (dog attack video) it should have never happened.   Yet these type of things happen often due to lack of supervision.  It makes me so mad that people allow this to happen.  The owner in this video even brought his dog to the vet to be euthanized before this happened.  He already knew that his dog was not good with his grandchild.  He cannot blame the vet for it, he did not supervise his dog and grandchild's interactions.  This never had to happen, it could have been completely avoided.

"Sherri, our dog has growled at the baby," is what the person on the phone is saying.  People who allow their dog full access to the baby, everything seems fine until the baby starts to move and everything changes.  I have got a lot of these exact calls.  When I go to the home to discuss the issue with the owners they are often dismayed by their dog's behavior.  Sometimes they have been coaxed to call by another family member.  I had just such a call a couple of years ago.  The Mother in law was extremely worried for her grandchild, the parents not so much.

When I got to the home I sat and chatted and watched.  Watching the typical interactions is a great way to know what is going on.  In an instant I stood up and asked them to pick up their baby.  Their very large Akita mix dog was growling as the baby crawled closer and closer to him. The parents watched and did not seem alarmed, that is when I started my warning seeing that no 'danger signs' were going off for them.  "Your child is going to get bit," was the first thing I said.  "Your dog is most definitely going to bite the baby."  They looked at me like "what?"  So I picked apart what was going on and more than likely going to happen.

When babies are little and new they cause no concern to a dog typically.  They don't move around, they are no threat except that they take some of our attention.  Once on the ground and mobile, everything changes.  Of course there are lots of dogs that are fine with crawling babies and never see them as a threat.  But this blog is still for all dog owners, I don't care how friendly and wonderful your dog is.  Once a baby starts to crawl it can be considered a pack member and if you (the owner) do not rule the pack, then your dog will.  Your job is to protect your child and to protect your dog.  If you do not, then your dog takes over the job.

I've sat at many first time meetings with dogs and children and shuddered as a parent.  I am an extremely protective parent and it boggles my mind to see how some people see no danger.  I believe it is the "my dog would never" attitude.  Which is indeed a very dangerous attitude to have.  Any dog will, all dogs have a breaking point. But the fact is that dogs and children should never be alone, NEVER.  I remember a vet tech telling me years ago that she didn't buy the whole supervision thing.  "If she couldn't trust her dogs alone with  her baby then she wouldn't have them," is what she told me.   Sadly this is not a good attitude.  Of course it is great to know that your dog loves your baby or child.  But even still you should never leave the two alone.

Things happen, children and/or babies can do some weird things.  They pull ears, bite, crawl on top of and any number of other things.  If you don't see what happened then you have no idea, you are blind as far as the situation at hand.  One client told me that she continually told her three year old son that their dog was going to bite him as he manhandled her.  She then told me that the same dog and three year old spend a great deal of time in his room with the door closed.  AHHHHHHHHHH   I have made many people cry on behavior calls, yep.  I bring reality to them so that things like the video don't happen.  A wake up call so to speak.  The crying comes as they have their ah ha moment; the instant that they realize that they were not protecting their child. 

It is can be a very dangerous situation, lack of supervision and there is simply no need for it.  Had the man in the video supervised his grandchild and dog appropriately this would have never happened.  Dogs often need a great deal of time getting used to a crawling baby. It is our job to make it clear that this is not someone that they can boss around.  Only we as parents/grandparents can do that.  Babies need to have a great start with a dog, that means making things when they are together positive.  Spending time with the dog and baby in a safe manner.  Both dog and baby need to learn how to interact with one another.  You cannot just leave it up to them to figure it all out.

By not offering appropriate supervision with dog/baby interactions you give your dog permission to deal with it.  Your lack of supervision lets your dog know that they need to punish and teach the baby on their own terms, not good.  You are the parent, it is your job, not your dogs.

NEVER , EVER LEAVE A DOG ALONE WITH A BABY OR CHILD.  It is just not worth the risk.