A dog is often a child’s first best friend. A toddler grasps his dog’s fur as he takes his first unsteady steps. They both have endless supplies of energy for never-ending games of fetch or sandlot baseball. They snuggle up together to read a book or watch television. And they share secrets, the child secure in the knowledge that a dog never tells.
Few things are as special as a loving, positive, healthy bond between child and dog. Any parent who has known the love of a dog wants to share that special relationship with his or her child.
For a child, loving a dog involves empathy: learning to pet a dog gently and not to pull tail, ears, or fur. Dogs learn the valuable lesson that children must be treated gently no putting teeth or paws on them. For both, social skills and experiences include play, sharing, companionship, and caring.
But that kind of relationship doesn’t just happen organically. You have to lay the foundation for it with both child and dog. In this chapter, we’ll address how to do that with normal dogs as well as how to ensure safe interactions between kids and dogs who may be fearful, anxious, or stressed.
How do you build that perfect relationship? Like all friendships, it takes work and practice from all parties: parent, child, and dog. And even if you don’t have children yourself, your dog is likely to encounter them throughout his life. There will be kids in the neighborhood who want to pet him or nieces, nephews, or grandchildren coming to visit. Here, we’ll discuss how to manage introductions and interactions successfully, whether your dog is normal or is fearful, anxious, or stressed when he comes in contact with kids.
Dog on Patrol
Some dogs aggressively patrol the fenceline, barking and snarling when people walk by. Many times they seem to save their ire for kids. It’s not unusual for kids to tease dogs by running sticks along the fence, throwing things over the fence at them, or making barking noises at them.
Often, the simplest solution is to keep your dogs indoors when you know kids are on their way to or from school. You can also make the effort to meet the kids and ask them not to tease your dog, explaining that it makes your dog fearful, anxious, or stressed. You may even discover that the kids are afraid of your dog. Give your dog treats whenever the kids walk by to create positive associations with them. This can have your dog looking forward to seeing children walk by.