As children grow, the attitude of the dog may change. Behavior that the dog tolerated from a baby may no longer be tolerated once the baby starts to crawl or walk. An older dog may be less tolerant than he was when he was younger. If you have ever heard yourself say..."My dog is good with the [baby, child, kids], she lets them climb all over her, lie on her and pull her fur. She has never even growled. She would never bite a child", then you are allowing situations to occur that could easily lead to a bite situation. Dogs do not like being treated this way by children. They may tolerate it, but they don't enjoy it. No dog can or should be expected to tolerate repeated rough or inconsiderate handling by children. It is possible to condition dogs to the types of things that children may do, but even a dog that is conditioned to children should not be left unsupervised with them and should have a safe place from which he can retreat from the children.
Safety tips from Victoria Stilwell:
It is important for children to learn to treat the dog with kindness and to learn to respect the dog's wishes when it comes to dog/child interactions. Children can learn to read the dog's body language and know when the dog does and does not want to interact. Click here to see a series of photos with explanations from dog behaviour consultant Jennifer Shryock that show very subtle, yet clear communication from a dog that does not want to interact with a particular child at this moment.
Doggone Safe recommends clicker training as the best way for kids to get involved with training the family dog. This is a hands-off method of training that builds and bond of love and respect between child and dog and helps the child learn to empathize with the dog.
A great way for kids to determine whether the dog is enjoying their petting is to ask the dog if he wants more. Simply stop petting and see whether the dog shows that he wants more or whether he gets up and leaves. Click here to see a video that shows how to ask if a dog wants more and to see how a dog shows that he does or does not want more petting from the child.
Please be sure to review the Learn to Speak Dog page to learn about dog body language signs before looking at the videos below.
Now that you have learned about dog body language, take a look at some videos shown below. Look for the signs that we talked about above. Some of the things that you may have thought were cute or funny in the past, you may now find frightening. If some of the video links don't work, you can find lots of cute and scary videos on You Tube that show dangerous interactions between children and dogs. Just search You Tube (www.youtube.com) for the key words dog and baby.
Also visit the Dogs and Storks blog for videos and commentary from dog/baby relationship expert Jennifer Shryock.
Watch the videos below that show exceptionally tolerant dogs that are being expected to put up with too much from the kids. These dogs may continue to tolerate this unwanted attention, they may not. They should not be expected to. The owners of these dogs love their dogs and their kids, the just don't recognize the subtle signals that the dogs are sending to tell that they are not enjoying the interaction.
Why Dogs Get Fed Up
Dogs Reaction to Baby Changes as Baby Learns to Crawl
These dogs may at some point decide that they have had enough and they may reprimand the children the way they would a puppy that was bothering them. This does not mean that the dog does not like the child, he just does not like what the child is doing. If pushed far enough any dog (even yours) could get to the point of using his teeth to get his message across when all other warnings have failed. Watch this video that shows an adult female dog reprimanding a puppy. This was a normal, appropriate response to a puppy moving in on an adult dog's treats and the puppy was not hurt. Had this been a child, this type of reaction could have caused a nasty bite, since children do not have all that fur to protect them. This is the type of situation that could arise if the children are permitted to pester the dog relentlessly until the dog reaches the breaking point. Note the speed of the dog. No parent could possibly be fast enough to stop this no matter how close the supervision. It is best to prevent the situation from arising in the first place.
Poodle Reprimands Puppy
Here are videos that show games that seem fun for the moment, but could turn dangerous if the dog gets too worked up. This type of play stimulates predatory behaviour in the dog. When dogs are in prey mode, instinct drives them to chase, grab, kill and eat. It is extremely dangerous for children to be around predatory dogs and for children to squeal and run and act like prey. These games do not promote the type of calm, respectful relationship that parents should strive for between child and dog:
Not So Funny Game to Play With Dog
A Very Dangerous Game