Interacting with Dogs

The following posters, taken from Dr. Shopia Yin’s (DVM, MS) site are great cartoon pictorials of how children should AND shouldn’t interact with dogs.  Her comparison of how you wouldn’t act this way with a person, so don’t act this way with a dog is a great visual and relatable way for children to understand.

Kids interact dogs

One very important piece to take note of is that ALL interactions must be supervised.  In looking up the statistics on fatal dog attacks in Canada the last 4 that have occurred (1 in 2010, 1 in 2011, 2 in 2012) were of unsupervised children.  Two in the home and two out in the yard.  There are several others that aren’t listed as being unsupervised, but seem almost certain that they were, based on what is listed.

A few things to take note of with games that kids can play with dogs:

  • Be sure that the child is not taking the ball (or other fetch toy) away from the dog, unless the dog is offering it.  (Dropping and backing off and trying to give it to the child are definite signs the dog wishes to continue the game with the child).
  • Only allow a child to run with a dog if the dog is not trying to jump on the child while they are running.  Same goes with walking, if the dog can’t walk beside the child with all four on the floor, then the child should not be walking the dog.  (a great way to work on a dog learning not to jump up is by playing the “Be a Tree” game from the video in yesterday’s post and rewarding the dog when they are not jumping up)
  • When playing hide-n-seek, have your child give the dog a treat (if the dog will take it nicely, or have the child drop it on the floor for the dog) when the dog finds them.
  • As above, when training tricks, only have the child give the dog a treat from hand if the dog knows how to take it nicely, otherwise the child can drop the treat on the floor instead.

It is important to teach a child that if they have something in their hand the dog wants to investigate or have (like a cookie), the child shouldn’t pull their hand away and up – inevitably the dog will jump up trying to get it and may knock the child over as they attempt to get it or as they attempt to get their balance.

An addition to the poster below is also to not allow your child to tease a dog.  If they have a toy, teasing the dog only encourages the dog to try and take it, possibly ending in an unintentional (or intentional due to frustration) bite as they grab for the toy.   Teasing dogs behind fences or in crates is only aggravating and frustrating to the dog.  A build in these emotions can most certainly lead to undesirable outcome for both the dog and the child.

Kids not interact dogs

The more tools we can give children on how to interact and not interact with dogs, how to understand a dog’s body language so they know when to stay away, how to be a tree, etc.  the better equipped children will be to prevent injuries/bites from occurring.  Of course there is no guarantee, but the more tools we can give them, the better.  Doing our part as parents and dog owners is vital.  Socialize your dog, train them on how to behave around children, ALWAYS supervise any child dog interactions and if you know your dog does not like children (they are wary, fearful, whatever) do NOT put them in the situation where they will feel the need to protect their self.

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