Kids & Dogs


Kids and Dogs
How to build a healthy and happy relationship.By Laura Vissaritis, Dog Behaviour specialist

For thousands of years, dogs have been our loyal companions. They were always ‘man’s best friend’, until recently; where the pressure of life in a modern human world has reached a stressful peak. Living in a human world can be traumatic to a dog and it is important for us to see our dogs as a species separate to us, respecting their needs; sometimes even over our own.
Too often, we read reports of dog attacks toward young children, where the dog (that thinks, behaves and communicates differently to us) is to blame. Unfortunately, children aged 1 – 5 years are most at risk because they are less able to communicate to a dog the way a dog needs. Dogs are creatures of habit, wanting to predict their environment and feel in control of their daily lives. Children are unpredictable in their behaviour, mannerisms and responses, and to a dog; that is very stressful.
Often because children can be so unpredictable, dogs develop uncertainty and aversion towards children as they are perceived to be unstable family members. So how do we develop a healthy relationship between a child and a dog? Well, it is important that a dog develops a positive association with a child. Good things should happen in the presence of a child and the dog should feel in control of the interactions with the child. For example;
1.) a child must always be supervised when in the company of a dog.
2.) allow the dog to approach the child, not the other way around
– allow the dog to dictate the interaction by sniffing (dog handshake equivalent) the child before the child touches/looks/talks to the dog
3.) teach the child to cue the dog to ‘sit’, ‘drop’ etc. for exchange of treats
4.) calm and relaxed movements and voice around the dog
5.) allow the child to give the dog his/her dinner
6.) any touching of a dog should be calm and uniform. For example, soft calm strokes of the dog is essential
7.) if the dog moves away, the child must respect the dog’s request for space and not follow it.
8.) teach the child to respect the dogs safe space such as bed or crate and not to enter that space.
9.) encourage your child to be empathetic, where they learn to consider how a dog would like to be treated. Humans do not like being poked, tugged, have hair pulled, eyes poked or chased, and guess what… neither do dogs!