Dogs & Kids – When It Isn’t Cute

Many households that contain dogs, also have children.  Just as often these children are relatively young – from newborns and toddlers to teens, kids and dogs are often part of the same family.  Even if you don’t have children, chances are your dog is exposed to them whether intermittently or regularly.  While many dogs are great with kids, people often expect far too much from them.

People like to talk about how “wonderful” their dog is with their children.  Generally, this is true.  Many of these dog aren’t just great with children, they actually should qualify for sainthood.  Parents spend a lot of time ‘protecting’ their children from dangers.  This includes, one would suppose, protecting them from dog bites and the like.  The problem is, whois

A potentially dangerous situation, this dog simply looks as though he wishes the whole episode was over. Toddlers grab and pinch in an attempt to stand upright and move around. Instead of taking a photo, an adult should be quickly removing this child from the situation.

protecting the dog?

Far too often, when a dog bites a child, it is not the fault of the dog.  Certainly there are dogs that have not been socialized well with children or who have had bad experiences with children but even THEN is it really the fault of the dog?  Some will absolutely blame the child, and with older kids this can be true and with younger kids, partially true.  The fact is that kids are not born knowing how to act around and with dogs.  Teaching them what is appropriate and what isn’t is the job of parents and other adults – a job that they often fail at.

Dog owners love to tell people how ‘wonderful’ their dog is with children.  They will regale people with tales of how children can do anything to their dog.  They go into detail as to how any child can pull their dog’s tail, ears, sit on them, smack them, climb on them – do any manner of things to them – and their dog will not react.  “He’s SO GOOD with kids!”.  What our first question should be – why on earth do you allow any child, or indeed any person, treat your dog that way?  Kudos to the dogs in this world that will put up with such treatment – it truly IS a testament to their temperament – but what happens when they have had enough?  While people are so incredibly proud that their dog will put up with so much, they should, in reality, be embarrassed that they allow such shenanigans to go on, and when their dog has finally put up with all of the abuse that they are going to, they should be certain to put the blame where blame belongs – on themselves.

There is no such thing as a dog who doesn’t bite.  All dogs have the ability and the capacity to bite.  Even dogs who don’t have a tooth in their heads can still ‘bite’.  This doesn’t mean that dogs are inherently unstable, have poor temperaments or are dangerous – it means that they are dogs.  Sure, many dogs will put up with many things.  It doesn’t mean that they should have to.  Chances are, that eventually, your dog won’t take it any longer.  Perhaps the children who have been allowed to do as they will to him, will take it a step too far.  Even the most stable of animals, when in pain or pushed beyond their considerable comfort level, will react.  In most cases, this reaction will automatically be blamed on the dog.  This can result in many outcomes – not the least of which is a dead dog.

Teaching a child that a dog is not a step stool should be automatic for a parent. While this dog is sleeping, a tiny heel dug into the wrong place could easily elicit a startled reaction from a soundly sleeping dog who is suddenly in pain. Why take the chance? Spend the $20 and invest in a stool. It costs less than reconstructive surgery in the end.

While all dogs deserve protection from children, people in general, other dogs and the like, it is also imperative that parents and other guardians teach the children in their charge how to act around dogs.  Perhaps your dog, no matter how put upon, will not ever react to the stress your child puts on him, but what happens when your child does the same to a dog with whom they don’t live?  By allowing a child to have free reign at home with the family dog or dogs, it follows that they will treat all dogs in a like manner.  While your dog may be a saint in putting up with the abuse, the dog that lives at Aunt Sally’s house, may not be.  When not taught how to properly behave around dogs and animals in general, your child not only endangers him or herself, but they endanger the pets of others as well.  While your dog might stand and take it when your four year old grabs and twists his ear, a dog unused to such treatment may feel that pain and react.  This reaction might be just a growl initially, but your child has never been taught what that means, so they keep on going.  Eventually, most dogs, will escalate from there – perhaps a snap, maybe culminating in a bite.  Its hard lesson for a toddler to learn and can be a costly one for the dog who certainly didn’t ask to be treated like a stuffed animal.

Photos abound on the internet of children in precarious positions with dogs.  Toddlers locked in crates with adolescent dogs for a photo op without a thought as to what could happen.  Everyone thinks its adorable and when you point out the obvious danger, nobody wants to hear it.  Dog bites in this country are a huge problem.  More than 4.5 million bites occur yearly and the greatest percentage of those involve children between 5-9 years of age (  Bites are much more likely in homes that have dogs, higher still in those homes with multiple dogs.  The fact is that many of these bites could be avoided if people used common sense and taught their children how to behave properly around dogs and animals in general.  Don’t allow your child to manhandle or generally abuse your dog.  Remember that kids simply don’t know – they must be taught.  Learn the signs of an uncomfortable or stressed out dog.  If your child is hanging on your dog and your dog is looking sideways, yawning, licking his lips, take the initiative, realize

that your dog is uncomfortable or under stress, and remove the cause of that stress.  In this case – the child.

Make it a priority to teach your children how to behave properly with an animal.  Make it a priority to protect your dog from stressful or painful situations no matter how ‘cute’ you think it might be.  Make it a priority to not willingly put your dog in a situation where he may have to defend himself.  Make it a priority to socialize your dog with children whether you have them or not – because inevitably your dog will meet up with them regardless.  Make it a priority to be your dog’s advocate.  Insist that random children approach your dog correctly and treat him with respect even thought their parents don’t seem concerned.  You could be saving your dog and more likely than not, saving that child from a bite somewhere down the road.