Many people recognize the similarities between children and dogs. They are both bundles of energy and love, and can learn all kinds of new things. It may come as a surprise, but some dogs don’t particularly enjoy being around children. This can stem from a negative experience with a child or from the noisy, energetic nature of kids. Sometimes it can be a very serious issue if your dog becomes aggressive or if you have children living in the same place as the dog. Even if these problems don’t arise, your dog will come in contact with a child eventually, and it is best to plan ahead and work with your dog to avoid any negative reactions that may occur.
Starting early is recommended for teaching both children and puppies. Just as children begin to socialize with other children at school and daycare, puppies are beginning to socialize, too. Puppies are exposed to all kinds of new scents, sounds, and sights every single day. Familiarity can make something seem less threatening or scary, even to a grown dog. Socializing your puppy or dog with children will help avoid mishaps in the future. While it can be hard to communicate with both parties, it is important to let the children involved know to be gentle with the dog. Pulling ears, sticking fingers where they aren’t wanted, and loud noises can scare a dog and make him or her more cautious and more likely to retaliate. While you can’t control what a child might do, it is important to monitor the situation closely and never step away. You are more likely to stop a situation from escalating if you can stop poor behavior quickly. Frequent interactions with children will help a puppy or dog become accustomed to the ways of children and can ease fears or anxieties. Sometimes, if you are concerned about a particular child, try introducing the dog to the child’s smell through an item of clothing or bedding. This will get your dog used to the scent and more comfortable before introducing the child directly. Always encourage proper behavior for both children and dogs, and use positive reinforcement to ensure future actions are kind and respectful.
But what to do if your dog is already very anxious, scared, or even aggressive around children? In this case, it is better safe than sorry. Socialize slowly, and if you notice signs of discomfort in your dog, stop. Yes, it is okay to tell children to leave the dog alone or remove the dog from the situation. Sometimes this can’t be helped if the child lives in close quarters with the dog. Other kinds of training can help with such problems, including distraction and mental cognition training. Dogs with stronger minds are more capable of overcoming the stimulation related to being around children. Obedience training may save you a lot of worry and lower your risk of a dangerous encounter. Teach the dog to stay out of the child’s room, and teach the child how to behave properly around the dog by not running or shouting. This, of course, depends on your child’s age and ability to understand rules. For very small children, they should always be supervised so this won’t be as much of a problem, but as they age and grow they will come to understand respectful behavior. Sometimes dogs will become used to a child, as the child’s scent will be a part of the smell of home. Keeping dogs and children separate and occupied can help slowly adjust both to the other’s presence.
As some dogs age, they may become less tolerant of children. This is understandable as the aging dog might not be able to see or hear a child coming and is more easily spooked. The dog might feel weak, especially if other health issues have become obvious, and will feel unable to protect himself or herself. In this case, teach children not to startle the dog and to be aware of how to approach the aging dog. Also try to figure out how best to work with your dog, perhaps by keeping the dog out of certain rooms to avoid surprises.
If you are concerned about your dog’s behavior, it is best to observe closely and then consider your options from that point forward. Dogs that are nervous or scared are more likely to take well to socialization and training, whereas a dog that shows aggression may need other, more specific training techniques. Be aware if your dog has his or her tail between the legs, ears pinned back, shows teeth, growls, nips, becomes rigid or won’t sit down, or cowers behind your legs. These are all sign that your dog has had enough, and you need to intervene. While training and socialization may be a step in the right direction, it takes time and understanding before a scared dog can interact peacefully with a child. Also be aware of how the child behaves. Kissing and hugging can be stressful for a dog, even if a child is well-intentioned. Keep an eye out for pulling, pushing, pinching, and other actions that invade a dog’s personal space or can cause harm. These should be stopped immediately, and if a child cannot be kind to the dog, the child may need to find something else to play with.
Many children grow up with dogs, benefiting from the love, protection, and respect that a dog can provide. With this in mind, take things slowly, and always monitor the situation. Use your best judgement and try to prepare as much as possible before bringing them together. This can save you a lot of heartache and frustration in the future, and can help both your dog and the child create a loving bond.
Whether your dog is completely comfortable around children or is hesitant, you can mark that on your dog's profile on the Swifto dashboard, and this information will be available to your walker at all times on the app.
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By Callie T.