A little while ago I wrote about how you need to socialize your dog properly, pert of this being you need to make your dog tolerate children. Not be their best friend, not all dogs are, but for a working society where we can all live you need to make sure your dog can behave around children, no matter if they are ever going to come to the skin or not. It needs to be able to tolerate their presence without aggression or fear. Now, while we dog owners have responsibilities, parents also have them. Here are some things to remember when you teach your child to behave with a dog – and believe me, it needs to be taught. It does not come naturally.
If my hand looks like this after this small indicent he meant no harm with, he was just being inconsiderate, imagine how a small child's face would look.
Trust the owner. If she or he says you can't let the child play with the dog ”because he gets so hyper” or ”she is a bit rough”, don't go ”oh, but it doesn't mind, my child's used to it!”. The owner knows the dog he/she shares the house with, and he/she knows whether or not the dog can play with a child safely.
Correcting is not a bite
I mentioned earlier that the dogs correct each other. They do that with poking with their snout and snapping with their teeth. Mothers do this to pups. Friends do that with each other. Dogs of the same house do that. It's not a sign of being aggressive, it's simply interacting and telling something is not OK. Same goes with growling.
We have unfortunately grown to believe a growl or a snap is a sign of an aggressive dog. We teach out dogs to never growl and we see dogs correcting each other as ”mean”. We expect all dogs are the most docile labs or the most gentle beagles, but that is not true. We have a HUGE variety of breeds and breed mixes and a HUGE variety of temperaments. Some temperaments are more desired with house pets than others, but those temperaments wouldn't probably work with for example a hunting dog or a guard dog or a service dog. Even within just house pets we have many, many, many different dogs that prefer different things.
Some dogs, no matter what their purpose, breed, gender or age, are more prone to correct with a snout poke or a snap. From my own experience, older bitches are more likely to do this than males, but once again, this is just my own experience. Don't use it as a guide and think you can take your child to hug a strange older male because nokkaelaimet.weebly.com said it's OK.
When a snap or a poke happens, even if the skin is not broken (and usually it is not because the dog knows perfectly well how to use it's teeth) it is often labeled a bite and the dog is getting a stigma of being aggressive. REMEMBER; A BITE NEVER LEAVES THE SKIN UNBROKEN. When a bite happens, the dog is wishing to harm. It feels threatened enough to injure to get out of the situation. This is a VERY serious thing, the child often needs medical help after the incident, and we should NEVER let this happen. This is exactly why we should always supervise animals and children together.
If the child cries, but the skin is not broken (or the wound is hardly there) and the dog doesn't seem to be too ”stressed” what has happened is most likely a poke with a snout (and the kid got scared of the hasty movement) or a snap. If we happen to witness the situation, the dog has most likely presented a very wide variety of different calming and warning signals before that; stiff posture, licking of teeth, growling, looking other way eyes enlargened, panting... may they have been clear or not, may there have been many or not, those signals of the dog have been ignored and it moved on to the next phase of trying to solve the situation; physical correction. This is how dogs communicate with other dogs, and because of OUR OWN MISTAKE things have lead to the situation where the dog felt threatened or irritated or both enough to use physical force.
While there is a connection between the tendency to correct and the tendency to bite, most dogs that physically correct never meant to harm the child. They hold no grudge. They simply corrected it in a way their species work. To label this dog aggressive, to put it down or find a new home for it immediately shows our own misunderstanding of the situation and how badly we handled it before the incident. Instead of this labeling we should understand we let this happen, and we should not let it happen again. While in some cases, if the dog is super stressed around the kid in general, it would be best to not let the kid and the dog be together, usually these kind of things don't happen again if we make sure the child and the dog are interacting in a correct, safe way.
A snap or a snout poke is not a bite. Don't call it a bite, and don't see it as an aggressive move from the dog's side only. Something has happened that led to the situation, and most likely it was our mistake that allowed this unfortunate incident. If the situation doesn't result anything more serious than a crying kid with no visible physical harm or a slightly tense dog, move on. Make sure next time you handle things better. Specially if the dog is not your own dog, there are NUMEROUS things you can do to make sure in future your kid stays untouched and the dog doesn't feel threatened by it. You can start by figuring out if you let some of the forbidden things described in this post happen.
Dogs and kids can be terribly good friends and they can do lots of fun things (and get into lot of mischief) together, but this means both of them know how to behave around each other.
Socialize your dogs properly and teach your kids to respectfully treat a dog. This way a dog can really be your kid's best friend.
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