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You see it almost daily on social media – a child-dog interaction, some good but most of them quite dangerous. You hear in the news that a child has been bitten by the family dog and stories are told about families giving up their pets due to incidents with their children.
So how can we change those stories into happier ones? How can we stop or at the very least decrease these incidents? How can we create a happy child-dog interaction? And what can you, as the parent, do to avoid a bad relation between your child and your dog?
Dog Body Language
Let’s start with what you as a parent need to do.
Dog’s use body language to communicate their feelings and intentions. One of the most important things we can do as dog parents is learn how to read their body language. Once you start noticing your dog’s body language you will see that your dog is communicating with you all the time. If you need help learning dog body language then go check out our Dog Body Language Library (we even have a FREEBIE to get you started) and start learning.
Spend some time with your child observing your dog and talk with your child about what signals you are seeing. Many children have an amazing intuition of what their dog is saying, so you might learn something not just from your dog but also from your child.
What is your dog doing when he is interacting with your children? How does his body look like? Is his tail down, up, stiff, wagging? Is his body relaxed or is his bag tense? Is he seeking contact or trying to get away? Is he licking his lips cause your kids just gave him a treat or is it due to something else and how about his eyes? Are they that lovely relaxed almond shape they are supposed to be or do you see the white in his eyes (also known as whale eyes)?
Ok, now we have educated, knowledgeable parents who knows how to read their dog. Now, let’s talk about the child-dog interactions. Below you can find a list of what not to do and what to do in the child-dog interaction.
What to do and what not to do in child-dog interaction
The NO-NO in child-dog interactions
- Never leave a child alone with your dog.
- No grabbing, poking, sitting, hugging, pulling or lying on the dog.
- Let the dog walk away don’t follow or chase after them.
- Never ever disturb a dog that is eating or has a bone or treat.
- A sleeping dog is always left alone.
- No playing dress up with a dog (clothes are for humans!)
The YEEEEESSS in child-dog interactions:
- Give your dog a safe-spot. Preferably a spot the dog has chosen and leave the dog alone when the dog is there.
- Always have an adult lead the interaction with the dog (be the role model for the child).
- Teach your child and dog how to play together in order for both to stay safe. This could be playing fetch with the child throwing the ball and the dog fetching it (or vice versa if that works better 😉 )
- Involve your child when it is time to feed the dog – they love pouring kibble into a bowl and having your child help creates a happy association for the dog (ok, this little human is giving me food – me like her!).
- If your child crawls around make sure you either watch them or provide a safe area where the dog is not allowed – a playpen. Let your dog join from outside by having a see through gate and give them something nice to do while they observe the child playing – a Kong, a bone or a toy.
- Make sure your dog gets enough daily enrichment and exercise so they don’t get too energetic indoors and accidentally knock over the child in their eagerness.
Here you will find more infographics from FamilyPaws, graphically showing you how not to and how to interact with your dog.
Baby and dog interaction: fppe-dog-baby-sheet-sm
Toddler and dog interaction: fppe-dog-toddler-sheet-lg.compressed
How to create different success stations: https://www.familypaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/FPPE_SuccessStation_Handout_FINAL_H-1.pdf
Keeping your child and dog safe throughout your child’s development: https://www.familypaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Milestones2.pdf
Searching for more knowledge on safe child-dog interactions, then check out these homepages:
Feel free to contact me if you have further questions or need a consultation.
Until next time!