Your dog can be gentle with adults but have fear, territorial, or food aggression toward children. The home is the site of 85% of dog bites to children, 75% of these occurring when kids are visiting friends and neighbors. Dog owners and parents have a big responsibility.
- Even the sweetest dog can feel forced to defend himself.
- Young children blunder into trouble because they don’t recognize nonverbal canine aggression cues and may not even understand the meaning of a growl.
- High energy play is not the solution. The more excited the child or dog gets the more likely one of them will misinterpret the behavior of the other.
- Be especially careful with babies. The kicking and erratic wriggling of a normal infant can incite the predatory instincts in some dogs.
Here are the rules:
- Never allow a child under the age of about 10 to be left alone with a pet.
- Set a good example.
- If you tease, play rough with pets or punish them physically your children will imitate you to an extreme, putting themselves at risk.
- Never assume that just because your dog enjoys hugs or face to face contact with you that he’ll play along with a child.
- It can also be dangerous for a child to pick up a dog.
Kids can take a position of authority.
- Have the youngster sit in your lap facing the dog.
- Tell the dog to sit.
- Reward her with a treat and praise several times.
- Then whisper “Sit” in the child’s ear so he can say it to the dog. With enough repetition your dog should start working for the child.
- Building this deference will support the dog’s subordinate rank.
- If there is any risk of a bite consider having the dog wear a vinyl basket muzzle when he is around small children. These are comfortable and well tolerated by most dogs.
- Made of strong vinyl from UPCO.
- Here is the web link (www.upco.com) or, in Albuquerque, retailers like Long Leash on Life (505-299-8800)
Your kids can learn that pets have rights too.
- It’s natural for dogs to feel protective of their food so give them some peace.
- Feed them in a separate room with the door closed.
- Avoid competitive politics by giving your dog a special food toy in another room while the children eat.
Most important, children should know what to do if they feel threatened:
- become small
- don’t stare or scream
- If a child approaches a strange dog she should stay calm and ask permission to pet-but only if an adult is right there.