Dogs hold the deserved title of being Man‘s best friend, but kids need a little guidance when it comes to forging that same bond of trust and love with the family pooch. Check out these expert tips to teach your child how to care for their canine sibling in a way that will get doggy to reciprocate the good feelings.
Your young ones learn from you, so it’s important that you aren’t unwittingly demonstrating bad habits which are making your dog less than happy. And because kids are smaller, they’re in a more vulnerable position should a disgruntled pet suddenly act out.
“There’s almost never an intention to hurt a dog,” explains dog trainer and animal scientist Linda Case. “It has more to do with making wrong assumptions than any sort of malicious intent.”
1. Dogs Aren’t Toys
Teaching empathy to your child is an ongoing, painstaking lesson. But it’s an important one to help tots understand that dogs are not playthings to be manhandled at their disposal. As Case emphasises, the message you need to be constantly repeating to your children is: “dogs are not toys. They are living, breathing creatures” – just like them.
2. Just Because It’s Funny, Doesn’t Mean Your Dog Likes It
“Parents love pulling out their phones and filming their kid adorably sat on their dog, and the dog clearly looks miserable.” Case says. “The dog is trying as hard as they can to maintain composure, but that is really testing their limits. It’s a projection.”
Common triggers for dogs include yanking on ears, tugging tails, and even cuddling too hard. Curb these behaviours to minimise the risk of an aggressive reaction.
Case points out that a seemingly tolerant dog may still be “low key unhappy”.
3. First, Be Gentle
Especially when it comes to new dogs, the acceptable (and safest) way to interact is with gentleness and respect.
“Dogs are like humans. Some enjoy a lack of personal space, some hate it. You can’t always tell, so be respectful either way and you are greatly lowering the risk of anything going wrong,” says Case.
4. Dogs Have Bad Days Too
“[T]he vast majority of animal bites for kids come from animals that the kid knows,” says Case. A scary stat – but don’t let that put you off gifting your child (and dog!) with an inimitably special relationship. Simply stick to the cardinal rule of respect, and look out for the three S’s: Stiff, Still, and Staring, to know when everyone should give Rover his space.
Explains Case —
“If a dog freezes up, it’s letting you know ‘please get away from me.’ And if they are staring off into space instead of looking at you, that means they aren’t interested in engaging.”