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Children and Dogs

It's important to teach both dogs and children how to interact with each other. You can't only train the dog how to interact with children then expect your dog to behave when children are making the dog stressed or irritated. For example, if a child pulls on a dog's ear and the dog growls or even snaps, the dog would have gotten in trouble for it's behavior. The parent sees his/her child almost getting bit where really the dog was communicating that it doesn't like having it's ear pulled. Though this sounds silly to say, but I feel like some often forget that dog's cannot speak our language, they speak dog. Lets talk about the 3 pictures below. Picture A is a picture of our dog and daughter, the picture of the girl hugging her dog will be Picture B, and the boy holding his dog will be Picture C.

Picture A: Dog- pricked ears but not forward, soft eyes, closed mouth Child- one arm across dog, no other leaning on dog

Teach your children where to pet your dog and even point out where not to touch the dog. These areas vary from dog to dog, but a child should never handle the tail, feet, and ears. Athena loves attention from the kids, but she also needs her space. In this picture Maddy has one arm across Athena's body and Athena is comfortable with it. If Maddy was to lean into Athena or even take her other hand and place it on Athena's chest, Athena would turn into a submissive roll, her ears would go to the side, and she would avoid eye contact. These are all signs of being uncomfortable and stressed. Once they stop she will flip back over and return to her comfortable position. We also remind our girls often, especially our youngest who is 4, where not the pet the dogs if we see them getting close to a "no area." Maddy will actually apologize to the dog if she pets the "no area" or if we tell her she is getting close to that area. If we notice the girls beginning to get too excited or rough we tell them to calm down so our dogs don't get too excited either. An 80 pound dog with the zoomies is a lot of dog for 2 toddlers. At this point, if I control and teach my kids then my dog will interact properly.

Picture B: Dog- whale eye, ears down and pinned back, tense closed mouth, avoiding eye contact from girl. Girl- hugging-- head on dog's back, arms wrapped around dog

I have seen many pictures like this one and I often read or even hear the person taking pictures like this example laughing at how sad or uncomfortable the dog looks. If you can recognize the dog looks uncomfortable then why move forward with taking the picture and allowing the child to hug the dog? When a dog gives more than one stressor, especially 3+ that is leading to a bite. A dog does not have to bare its teeth to signal us that it is going to bite. Trust me, I once made eye contact with a dog for less than 2 seconds and I had a dog on my arm. Please do not hug the dog!

Picture C: Dog- lip licking, ears pinned back, closed eyes, and head turned away Boy- holding

This is another picture that I have seen or witnessed in person countless times. Dogs are not children and most of them don't like being picked up! I have seen clients pick up their dog and their dog is trying to jump out of their arms while the owners grabs them tighter or after they were picked up the dog lets out a little growl and turns its head to nip the owner while the owner doesn't understand why the dog just did that. Dogs have four legs so they can stand and walk on their own. I have even seen small 8 week old puppies not like being picked up. Respect the dog!

If you have questions about your dog's behavior please ask. Here are a few links related to child-dog interacting and canine body language.

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