View Full Version : children and dogs

16th December 2007, 01:27 PM
At this time of year, when many of us without children will have small visitors, and when many families consider adding a dog to the household, these guidelines from the Whole Dog Journal Tips service are excellent and important.

I must say that in general I agree that toy breeds, which include cavaliers, are *usually* not appropriate in a house with small children. It is just too easy for accidents on either side to happen. Every family is different though and so is every dog (which is where homechecks and knowing a dog's temperament are important). I like to home larger cavaliers to homes with kids under 10 myself. I've had several homes with toddlers say 'My cavalier growls at the children' and want to rehome it. Ask when it growled and the response is often 'She was just giving the dog a hug!' or similar. Bite statistics in both the US and UK have one great commonality: the majority of dog bites are to children, to the face, by a dog they know.

That suggests a prime trigger is unwanted hugs or other activities the dog doesn't care for or sees as threatening when children are very close. Interactions always need to be managed and if that is too daunting for parents, then it's better to wait to get a dog til the kids are over 7 at least. But for those of us WITH dogs and who will have visiting children, never forget it is OUR responsibility to supervise all interactions and make sure both dogs and kids are safe and comfortable -- especially when we may have dogs that are not used to the high voices and quick movements and unintentional clumsiness of many children! Don't risk adding to bite statistics -- which could scare and even seriously harm a child or cause your own dog to be at risk (some localities will automatically put down a dog that has bitten. If a parent complains this is often the law). Crate the dogs or confine them to a room that children cannot access if needed -- I often will say 'the doggies need to have a nap now!' :)

Children and Dogs

It’s up to you to determine when—and if—the time is right for your child to have a dog. And when it is, you have to be the matchmaker to assure a lasting and loving fit.

Many wonderful things happen in positive dog/kid relationships. Children who have good relationships with dogs learn about responsibility and develop empathy for a species different from their own. Many children gain self-esteem from caring for and/or training their dogs. However, the responsibility to create good dog/kid relationships falls on adult shoulders.

What are the most important things that parents can do to “dog-proof” their kids?
To dog proof a child, parents should teach their children empathy and respectful behavior to all dogs. Parents also need to teach dog safety much the way they teach fire safety – with a clear, strong message. Children need to know that they must not bother dogs when they’re eating, chewing on a bone, or playing with other dogs. They must never approach or run from an unknown dog. They should be taught to ask owners of unknown dogs if they may pet the dog, and they need to be taught the correct way to pet.

Also, all children need to know that all dogs can bite. Dog bites are serious and the topic should not be sugarcoated. With respect to the family dog, very young children – under five years of age – should not be encouraged to hug or kiss the dog. If a young child routinely hugs and kisses her dog, she will be more likely to try it with strange dogs, which could have devastating results.

What can dog owners do to “kid-proof” their dogs?
Socialization to children is paramount. Building a positive association with children by exposing the dog to friendly, polite children is a great start. Playing the dog’s favorite game or giving her special food treats when children are around is even better. Another child-proofing measure is to help the dog to have positive associations with all kinds of handling. This should be done systematically, starting with very gentle handling and working up to rough, toddler-like handling such as tail-pulling, hair grabbing, and poking.

Are some breeds of dogs better choices for kids’ dogs?
Good qualities for family dogs are high sociability and responsiveness, and low to moderate energy and excitability. Dogs who are responsive take direction easily and are easy to train. Energy level and excitability are especially important considerations for families with small children. Dogs who are easily aroused and have a high energy level are likely to get overstimulated by children running, playing, and squealing.

One breed category to steer clear of with young children it would be toy dogs. Bigger dogs are sturdier and will fare better when accidentally stepped on or tripped over.

What are some of the worst things a parent can do in a dog/kid relationship?
Lack of supervision is a big problem. Dogs and kids should not be left unsupervised. Even the best-behaved children and dogs slip up. Forcing dogs to interact with kids is also a big no-no. If the dog doesn’t want to be with kids, she is sending a clear message. Pushing kids to take too much responsibility for the dog is a mistake. Parents need to understand that the kids should, at best, play a supporting role in dog care and training.

Once a dog has bitten a child, can he ever be trusted with children again?
It depends on the severity of the bite and the circumstances surrounding the incident. Some dogs are fine with the family children but not with strange children. Some dogs are wonderful with children of a certain age and not with others.

If the dog has bitten, or even growled at a child, everyone should sit up and take notice. This is not a fluke. The dog is communicating something and there is every reason to expect that if she finds herself in the same situation she will bite again.

From: http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/newsletters/puppies/children_and_dogs.html