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.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS SUPERVISE.