ELEMENTARY SCHOOL MATERIALS
Children Need to Learn about Dogs
Learning how to properly care for a dog provides wonderful guidelines for being a parent
and has benefits to the child that number in the hundreds, such as children with indoor
pets have fewer allergies and a stronger immune system, tend to have much higher
achievement scores, a more understanding outlook for the needs of others
From 'THE CANINE BEHAVIOR SERIES'
By Kathy Diamond Davis
||Author and Trainer
When a parent says, "My child is good with dogs," what does that mean? Should
people be pleased to observe that the family dog "will let the child do anything to
her"? The huge gap between how dogs and humans perceive child behavior causes ruined
dogs and injured children. Training the dog is not possible as long as children are
allowed to carry out what is tantamount to dog abuse, although the parents do not realize
No child under school age should be left alone with a dog. Supervision by an older child
is not sufficient: the person supervising needs to be capable of governing both the
child's and the dog's behavior. If there is doubt about the steadiness of either one, you
need a capable adult for the child and another one for the dog. This concept destroys one
of the favorite images people have of dogs with kids, which is the dog as perfect
babysitter. It's just not safe to put a dog into that position.
On the child's part, the mental capacity for empathy-awareness of hurting another
being-doesn't happen until 5 to 7 years of age. The child doesn't understand that certain
actions can hurt the dog. The child can give the right answers and behave properly when
supervised, but let the adult so much as turn a head away and you'll often see the child
start to experiment. This is simply how the human brain develops, and will be a problem
with "good" kids as well as "bad" kids.
|Older children can have problems dealing appropriately with dogs
too, due to childhood inability to understand the consequences of actions. Boys up to age
9 years are prime candidates for serious dog bites. The idea of giving a child sole
responsibility for a dog's care does not work.
A parent watching a child and dog interact is at a disadvantage when that parent doesn't
know which behaviors from a child are threatening to a dog. Yet this is exactly the
situation in which most parents find themselves.
You should never allow a child to:
|1.. Pull the dog's ears
2.. Poke eyes or other parts of the dog with fingers or anything else
3..Swing objects at the dog-whether the child realizes the object is
going toward the dog or not
4.. Pull the dog's tail
5.. Grab any part of the dog's body
6.. Chase the dog
7. Tug or otherwise compete with the dog for toys, food, or other items
8. Suddenly get into a dog's face
9. Run up to a bed or other furniture where a dog is resting
10. Disturb a dog who is sleeping or eating
11. Pet someone else's dog when the person is not there for the child to ask
12. Pet a dog through or over a fence or when the dog is tied out.
13. Enter the private area (crate or special room) designated as a childfree zone
14. Go near the nest where a mother cares for her puppies
15. Run in the sight of a strange dog
16. Provoke a dog to become agitated (including a dog confined behind a fence or on a
17. Ride a dog like a horse, lie down on a dog, or otherwise put significant weight on a
18. Be present in any situation that causes a dog to feel pain or fear (this would include
someone punishing the dog, an
electric collar shock, or any other painful or
fearful event that can
then become associated in the dog's mind with a child)
From the Dog's Point of View
When a dog becomes convinced that children inflict pain or fear, damage has been done to
that dog's trust in children. If the dog believes you will stand by and let this happen,
or will leave the dog at the mercy of the child without you being there, eventually the
dog will have no choice but self-defense.
By the time the dog shows a reaction, the damage may have long been done. This is
especially true of dogs raised from puppyhood with improperly supervised children. As the
dog's defense drives mature, and the dog is ready to do something about the kids, the
dog's beliefs about kids are set. Parents didn't realize what they were allowing to happen
to the dog by being so pleased that the puppy or dog would "let the children do
anything to him."
Dogs hugely benefit children when both are properly managed. A great deal of research
indicates that children growing up with well-cared-for dogs have mental and emotional
advantages that extend throughout life.
On the other hand, an abused dog in the household is a warning sign that there may also be
child or spousal abuse occurring. Authorities are aware of this connection and watch for
Learning to handle a dog properly helps prepare humans to be good parents.
People learn in many of the same ways that dogs do, so learning how to teach a dog will
help you teach your children and manage your household. Because managing a household
with preschool-age children and a dog in training (especially a puppy) is complex, people
often decide to wait until children are school age before adopting a family dog. Another
option is to adopt, raise, and train a dog to positively perceive children before having
your first child. Another choice is to seek out an adult dog to adopt who is great with
kids and no longer a puppy.
To be successful, any option you choose of bringing a dog into the family with children
will require teaching the children how to treat dogs properly and supervising the kids
with the dog. These skills will go through life with the grown-ups your children become.
Wonderful things happen in the human mind and heart when a person learns to understand
dogs and treat them kindly.
Date Published: 4/25/2004 1:50:00 PM
Kathy Diamond Davis is the author of the book Therapy Dogs: Training Your Dog to Reach
Others. You can email Kathy at MrsGoodPuppy@aol.com
for personal answers to your canine behavior and training questions! Should
the training articles available here or elsewhere not be effective, contact your
veterinarian. Veterinarians not specializing in behavior can eliminate medical causes of
behavior problems. If no medical cause is found, your veterinarian can refer you to a
colleague who specializes in behavior or a local behaviorist.