How dogs and young kids should interact with each other
*Young kids and dogs should always be actively supervised
Young kids and dogs need to know how to communicate with each other
Understanding what a calm dog looks like
A calm dog is one that will welcome what is going on around them and do not startle or become too anxious around young kids and noises.
What you should be looking for is a loose face with eyes calm (not wide eyed or eyes darting around). Calm dogs are usually laying down or sitting with their mouth open with no or some panting (if they are hot). Ears are relaxed (not laid back or very alert). Tail may be wagging, but don’t let this fool you!
Stress signs that dogs give
These signs are telling you that they are nervous and unsure. May lead into biting if not caught soon enough.
A dog shows a lot of signs before they even think of biting. It is very important to understand what these signs are and what you should do before the scenario escalates.
The #1 rule is to never go by their tail.
Dogs wag their tail telling others what they are feeling. People usually don’t pick up on how to perceive the way the dog is wagging its tail. Stress tail wags are usually stiff and very slow. The tail may have a low sweeping look.
Signs Dogs Give
When you look at the dog, is its eyes wide and darting around? They are trying to figure out what is going on and if they should “Fight” (bite) or “Flight” (run away from the scene).
They may be licking their lips and nose signaling that they are feeling stressed. Yawning is also a way that a dog shows they are stressed. If they haven’t been exercising or caught up on their sleep (so you know they aren’t just sleepy), this is showing signs that they don’t like what is going on around them.
Some calming signals (dog is trying to calm themselves down) that dogs give out that you should be watching for are:
- When they turn their body sideways or turn their head away from what is going on around them
- They may stand still like they are frozen. This is their “Freeze” that means they don’t know how to react and may be scared.
- They may have slow movements like walking with their head down very slowly and the tail may be sifting low and slow.
- They may sit or lay down trying to make themselves as small as possible. (Be sure to see how their eyes and ears are. Are they very alert and wide eyed?)
- If you approach them, they may lick your face signaling for YOU to look away. This is not a kiss. It’s the way a dog is telling you to turn your head away because they are scared and they don’t feel comfortable.
Adults and young kids should learn a dog’s growl, meaning they are close to biting.
When hearing this, there should be a way to distract the dog away from the scenario. They may also growl with a snarled face. This is when their lip rises up enough to show their teeth and they scrunch up their face with their tongue inside away from their teeth. (They wouldn’t want to bite their own tongue!)
A DOG SHOULD NEVER BE PUNISHED FOR GROWLING
Punishing a dog for growling only makes them more anxious and they may go right into biting before giving a warning.
Here is a video showing when a dog has had enough. (The dog in the video is resource guarding his toy, but the same goes for if kids are aggravating a dog or the dog doesn’t want to be in a particular situation.)
This video is done by a trained professional. The owner gives a command at the beginning for the dog to guard its toy.
Expecting A Baby?
Set your dog up for success when you are expecting and bringing a baby into the house.
What should you do to get your dog ready for a new baby?
The best thing you can do to get your dog ready is to “Scent Mark” areas and things that the baby will have a connection to so your dog can associate these things to the baby. One item you can use for scent is baby lotion that you will be using on your baby. This means you are marking things that will smell like a baby. Putting baby lotion on:
- Baby toys
- Baby bed
- Baby blankets
This will trigger the dog to welcome this smell, so when you bring the baby home, the dog associates the baby smell is something that is ok and not get anxious.
Reactive to Motion
Some dogs are very active to the motion of toys and when kids are playing. For example, if the kids are playing with a remote car and the dog wants to chase after it, it is best to put the dog in an area away from the commotion with something for them to be occupied like a treat or dog toy.
Bikes, skateboards, and scooters may also trigger the dog to run after it. For these occurrences, the best way to help your dog is to train them to focus on you or something else. You can have them play with one of their toys they love or toss treats AWAY from the distraction.
Never use a training collar (pinch collar, choker, or shock collar) when training to avoid a distraction. They will associate the pain to the distraction and they will be more frustrated and may start biting.
I would suggest using a head gentle leader (Think like with horses, you have control of their head) or their regular collar. Just a quick little tug to get the dog to look at you and away from distraction.
This kind of leader controls their head and when you pull on the leash, their head will turn in that direction.
This kind of collar pinches when pulled on. Dogs associate this with pain and what the distraction is causing them do get more frustrated.
With this collar, the prongs are placed on the throat and the owner has a remote that can emit a noise and/or a shock. There are different levels of shock frequency. If turned too high, it can hurt the dog and lead to a burn on their neck. Plus it makes the dog more fearful.
Reactive to Noise
The best way to get a dog comfortable with noises associated with babies and kids is to have recordings of a baby crying, children playing and screaming, and loud toys.
Play these recordings while the dog is relaxed. Or you may play these recordings and have the dog pay attention to you while you hold and give treats.
Most herding dogs would like to herd the children if they are running around. (The dog wants to herd the children all together in a central location. That’s why they are called herding dogs because they were bred to herd sheep, cattle, or other animals! To them, kids are just another kind of animal!!)
Quite Place Away From Noise
Dogs need to have a place to themselves where they feel safe. Somewhere quiet would be idle where they can rest and relax.
Crates are a great place! It is a place where only they can go and get away from everything and relax.
Never use the crate for punishment. They will associate being punished if they are put in the crate and will stop entering to relax.