Important to know about children's relationship to dogs
Follow this guide and your kid and dog might become best friends forever
Strong and long-lasting bonds can be formed between children and dogs. Research suggests that there are several health benefits to growing up with a dog- it reduces, among other things, the risk of developing allergies and asthma as they grow up.
Equally important to teach the child
Many dog owners are concerned with teaching the dog to appropriately interact with children, which is good. Still, it is at least as important to teach the children how to interact with the dog. By considering both aspects, you can more efficiently create a safe environment for the kids and the dog.
However, this article's information is helpful for parents with dogs because most children will end up in situations where they have to deal with dogs. This can be, for example, when the child visits another family that owns a dog or when the child is in the park, and a dog comes over to greet.
How the child interacts with the dog will affect how the dog behaves. It is good to teach children about respecting all animals and their boundaries as early as possible.
Here are some tips that may help.
1: Comfortable adult
There can be many reasons why adults are afraid of dogs. Maybe they had a scary experience with dogs when they were children. Perhaps they have experienced a traumatic episode, including dogs. If you as an adult feel insecure around dogs, the child can adapt to this fear.
An important starting point for successful interaction between child and dog is that the adult contributes by being positive, guiding and confident.
2: Do not fall into the "avoid" void
When a child shows signs of fearing dogs, it can be tempting to withdraw from situations where a possible encounter with a dog can occur. But avoiding dogs is not necessarily the smartest thing to do. Unless you or your child are allergic, we encourage most people to greet dogs in situations where this is natural.
By teaching the child how to behave around dogs, you give the child a necessary experience.
3: Teach the child about the dog's boundaries
Like humans, dogs have their own boundaries that act as a shield against dangers. Everything that lives on our planet has survival mechanisms or instincts that activate the brain's autopilot.
If a dog feels threatened, it can, for example, respond by appearing threatening and, in the worst case, attack the "threat". Therefore, it is essential to teach children how to interact with a dog. Dogs will usually be careful around children, but sometimes it may require a little extra effort.
Talk to your child about your dog's feelings and instincts. Be clear that all dogs are different and that you should always be careful around animals. Try to explain that the dog does not necessarily perceive situations as we humans do. An innocent play where two children laugh and throw pillows at each other can, for example, be interpreted as a dangerous situation for the dog. Many dogs want to protect the "attacked" person and can, therefore, in some cases behave threateningly towards the "attacker".
Teach the child that:
- never touch the food while a dog is eating.
- never pull a dog by the tail
- never sneak up on a dog
- never sit on the dog and ride it like a horse
- never run towards a dog
Talk to your child about how dogs use body language to communicate. For example, you can teach your child about 'calming signals.'
4: Teach your child how to greet dogs
Let's stage a hypothetical scenario: you are in a situation where your child wants to greet a dog. We assume that all parties have approved that the greeting should take place. How should the child proceed? First of all, it is important to remember that dogs rarely like sudden movements from strangers - they can simply perceive it as threatening.
You should therefore encourage the child to be calm and slow in their movements.
Many children tend to greet dogs by patting the animals head, which makes sense for the child, but not for the dog. The dog will want to get to know the child first, and the way that works is by smelling them.
When the child approaches with the hand over the dog's head, the dog will respond by lifting the snout upwards towards the hand. This movement can be frightening for the child and often causes the child to withdraw his hand like a pure reflex. This movement can cause the dog to become extra curious, and it again tries to approach the child who has just pulled away.
To avoid this mechanism, you can ask your child to keep his hand calm in front of the dog's snout so that it has the opportunity to smell and get to know the child. Such an approach will feel safer for both the child and the dog.
A very eager dog will often calm down once it has been greeted in this way.