In my opinion it’s nearly abusive to raise a kid without having a dog. Maybe I’m biased but the experience of growing up with a dog cannot be celebrated enough. Not only does having a dog provide a child with a best friend, confidante, and playmate, but dogs are great mentors. But my love for having kids raised with dogs doesn’t mean I ignore the important rules!
Never trust a dog and a child alone
I have 2 of the most kid-friendly, tolerant, and patient dogs I’ve ever known when it come to kids. They put up with so much from my grandchildren. But, in spite of their gentleness and patience, I never take for granted the fact that these dogs could, if pushed too far, do real harm to my grandchildren.
You’ve seen the videos online. Small kids doing terrible things to dogs while the adults taping the activity laugh. Children are allowed to ride on dogs, pull ears, lips, and tails, and generally treat the dogs like stuffed toys. It’s irresponsible and potentially very, very dangerous!
No dog, no matter how loving it is, should ever be completely trusted to be with a child without adult supervision. Frankly, it’s more that no child should be unsupervised around a dog. Kids often innocently do things that can set even the most tolerant dog off. Without meaning to hurt the dog a child’s actions can be painful and the dog may react in the only way it can; by biting.
The people who tell me their dog would never hurt a child are usually the ones who end up with their child or grandchild being bitten. Dogs don’t want to bit the kids but, remember, biting is the only real defense they have!
Developing the relationship
Children, especially very young ones, need adult help to develop and build the trusting, loving relationship we want our kids to enjoy with dogs. This means that the adult must teach the kids how to behave with the dog. Children need to learn that the dog will only respect them, and therefore, obey them, if they’re fair, gentle, and patient.
You can see how very young kids will have difficulty with this without a responsible adult right there to watch over them. The idea that this is a live animal with the ability to feel pain and fear is something kids have to learn.
Adults can help build the relationship between child and dog by teaching the child how to treat the dog. And the adults also need to set the rules for the dog’s behavior with the child. Both have to be educated in how to relate to this new housemate and eventual pal.
When the child is just a baby
We cannot expect a child who is too young to understand what we’re saying to be safe around a dog. Babies and toddlers have very little down to zero fine motor control. This means they’re even more likely to accidentally cause the dog pain. The most innocent interaction between little ones and a dog can end in disaster!
Separate lives together
Separating the youngest children and the dogs is a great way to let them interact safely. Baby gates , and crates allow the two to see each other without too much contact. And adults should, of course, supervise even this restricted contact.
Certainly when the adult is prepared to sit with the dog and small child and begin to teach both the rules, they can be together. The child learns to be gentle with the guidance of the adult and the dog learns he must exercise self-control when the child messes up a bit.
Growing up together
As the child grows older and the dog masters obedience and self-control, they can spend more time together. Eventually adult supervision should not be needed. The two should be able to play together without incident. But that is only when the child understands how to treat the dog and the dog know the rules governing his interactions with the child.
Obviously, in the case where a dog is brought into a home with an older child it is much easier. The child can be taught and should understand that the dog must be handled gently. The dog will still have to learn his role in the relationship but, with the child understanding the rules, it will be a much simpler thing.
Best Friends Forever
As I stated at the beginning of this article, I believe kids and dogs should be raised together. The benefits of a child having a dog are incalculable. Nearly everyone has a story of the dog they grew up with and how wonderful that relationship was for both.
I cannot imagine my own childhood without dogs. My parents made sure we always had a dog (or two). Nevertheless, they were always careful to supervise my time with the dogs until I was old enough. The same went for the dogs. They were trusted but watched. And, eventually, we had that incredible bond that only exists between kids and their dogs.
Take the time to make the relationship right!
By taking the necessary precautions and having the patience to teach both dog and child how to live together you will be forging a bond between them unlike any other. Every child raised with a dog can tell you that the pup is his best friend, confidante, and protector. Make sure your kid and dog have the same wonderful bond!