SDisney movies and TV shows gave us unrealistic expectations when it comes to raising kids and dogs together.
On TV, it looks so easy. The dog is there and maybe gets into a little bit of trouble at some point, but there is always happiness and mutual love and respect between animal and child.
You never see a dog get uncomfortable with a child hugging him. You never hear a growl when the child approaches the dog when he’s laying on a bed. You never see the child who gets bitten by the dog who had had enough.
In the United States, it is estimated that 51% of dog bite victims are children and the highest rate of dog bites for children is highest between the ages of 5-9. It is also stated that 77% of bites happen from a known dog (either owned by the child’s family or a friend). Due to a child’s size, many bites occur on the face or the neck.
Dog bites are preventable, but many people don’t know how to manage kids and dogs being raised together. Not by any fault of the parents – this kind of knowledge isn’t common.
So today we are going to talk about managing kids and dogs who may not have the best relationship. It could be your dog is worried about your child or your child is worried about your dog. Either way, in both cases, we need to make sure that the comfort and safety of everyone is of top priority.
- Use baby gates. Baby gates are a lifesaver when needing to separate your dog from your child (or your child from your dog). It prevents access on both sides for contact and you can take the stress off yourself from watching both beings at all times.
- Use pens. Pens are very similar to baby gates in that they contain and prevent access. Either your child can be in the pen with all their toys so the dog can have a break or your dog can be in the pen with something tasty to chew on so your child can roam around freely. Either way, the pressure is once again taken off you to keep an eye on both at the same time.
- Practice what you preach. Your child is always watching what you are doing. If you go up and grab something out of your dog’s mouth, are you comfortable if your 2-year-old copied you? What about hugging your dog? Maybe you have a unicorn dog who absolutely adores being hugged, but your neighbor’s dog may not appreciate it as much. Watch your interactions with your dog and then imagine your child having the same interactions. Are you comfortable with that?
- Learn dog body language. Dogs are always communicating with us and the more we know what they are saying, the faster we can intervene when they start to show signs of being uncomfortable. If we prove to our dog that we will always protect them from the child, more often than not, your dog will seek you when it becomes too much.
- Create a plan. We never want to leave our children alone with our dogs. Things can happen so quickly and leaving them alone means we can’t do anything to stop a spiral. Come up with a plan for everyday things when your focus will not be 100% on your child or dog. Where will your dog or child be when you go to the bathroom? What about when you are cooking dinner? What about working from home? By thinking about these things in advance, we can prevent stress in the moment.
Dogs and kids aren’t all rainbows and unicorns, but by being proactive we can cultivate a respectful relationship between every member of your household.