1. Never let a child’s face anywhere near a dogs muzzle.
I cringe whenever I see someone allowing a child to get up in a dogs face. The little lady will sometimes try to do this with our dogs, who I trust unequivocally to never snap at her, and I always stop her. I explain that in a dog’s world it is accepted behavior to “correct” annoying behavior by administering a quick bite designed to get the offending party to stop said behavior. When a dog does this to a puppy or another dog it doesn’t usually cause any damage. Their hair and skin makes them much tougher, and usually the correction is aimed toward a tough part of a dogs body. Although it is not uncommon for a corrected dog to get a small cut from the correction. A child is not equipped to handle a correction, it will often times cause a serious injury and should be avoided at all costs. This will be the underlying theme through the rest of our list, these behaviors are bad because of the natural way in which dogs respond to being stressed/annoyed.
2. Never let a child hug a dog
Although people construe the act of hugging as a friendly, loving gesture, the same is not true in dog body language. Dogs don’t like being hugged, and most will just tolerate it from their humans because that’s how dogs are made. But with a little knowledge of dog body language, it is relatively easy to pick up the cues that let you know that your dog is not a big fan of being hugged! As mentioned above, the way a dog will handle being put into a situation where it is uncomfortable is, sometimes, to use a corrective snap. If a child is caught with one of these it will be a terrible situation for both parties, child and dog, because, obviously, the child will be injured and the dog will be said to have bitten the child(which is a death sentence in most cases). So avoiding the behavior that may cause such tragic events is of the utmost importance!
3. Never let a child use their hands to play with a dog
There is a whole branch of medicine that is referred to as preventative medicine. Things like exercising, eating right, etc, are all things that will help to ward of disease in the long run. This rule falls into the preventive medicine category. Children are more fragile than adults, both physically and emotionally, which exacerbates any negative encounters they may have with a dog. Dogs have to be taught about bite pressure, they don’t naturally understand how much force is “too much” when interacting with humans(and other dogs). This is something that usually can be taught by the mom and siblings during the first 8 weeks of life, but often times puppies do not receive this necessary socialization. This leads to the dog not being aware of how much they are capable of hurting someone with their bites, even when playing. This will lead to children being hurt because the puppy/dog gets excited and bites too hard.
I teach the little lady to always take a toy with her when she plays with the puppies. This way, if they become too excited, she can redirect their nipping to the toy rather than to her hands, arms, etc. This teaches the puppy what is ok to bite and what isn’t. The same tactics can and should be used with dogs of all ages. Even if the dog is perfectly capable of monitoring and using the correct amount of pressure in their bites to prevent injury, teaching a child to interact with a dog the right way ensures that other dogs, who may not have recieved the proper training, are interacted with correctly to prevent injuries.
4. Never let a child feed a dog directly from their hand
This is an offshoot of number three above. But it is, perhaps, more important than teaching a child to not interact with his/her hands. This is because when food is involved it is a whole different ball game. It is possible to teach a dog not to “mug” the hand when receiving treats and is something that every dog should be taught. But it only takes one time for a dog to take a treat or food too hard and hurt a child, therefore becoming known as a “biter” and being stigmatized accordingly. I have taught the little lady that when she gives a treat to the dog to drop it on the floor in front of them, never to give it to them directly.
5. Never let a child play with a toy by holding it over their head.
Kids naturally react to games of keep away by doing this one. They use their height advantage to put the toy the only place they know the dog cant reach. Over their head! And of course the dogs naturally want to jump to get it. This, obviously, can be dangerous for the child. The larger the dog, the more chance of serious injury can result. The little lady does this way more than I care to admit. Fortunately our dogs are very protective and aware of her so they don’t jump. But I am working diligently to correct that behavior because, one day, one of the pups is going to make a mistake and the little lady is going to get hurt.
My plan of action so far is to only let keep away games to happen with long ropes that reach the groung even if she raises them over her head. This way the dogs grab and reach for the part closest to the ground and don’t need to jump to get it.
I imagine that some of my readers may think “my dog would never do ___” while reading the list above. That may very well be true, but I pose a question…what happens when your child meets a dog that will do _____? That is the number one reason why instilling these rules for child/dog interactions is so important. While we may be able to train our dogs to behave with our children, it may not always be the case with other dogs that the youngin’ will encounter throughout his/her childhood. These 5 rules will prevent injury and ensure that a dog that is just being a dog will not needlessly be put in a situation where they hurt a child.