If you are lucky enough to have both children and dogs in your life you are blessed. Having both children and a dog is also a lot of responsibility. I will be focusing on the responsibility of parenting a dog and a child in this blog discussion.
Children and dogs are both amazing and together they can be most endearing. Most children love being with dogs and most dogs love being with children. However, it is important to know this about the dog and the child before you introduce them to each other. Some dogs may have not been socialized well to children or may have had a difficult experience with children and therefore will not be happy to be around children. Forcing this situation will only create stress for the dog and a level of risk in the situation.
Socialization for dogs to humans and especially children is very important. Dogs need our help to guide them how to live in our world. Dogs and children don't just magically get along. They both need guidance and supervision from responsible human parents. Different levels of supervision are needed for different ages of the child. For example very young children need supervision at all times. A toddler is able to physically reach out and touch the dog. The reach becomes a touch and can become a pull on the dogs fur. Active adult supervision is needed to guide the child to touch the dog appropriately and to protect the dog from being hurt.
Children of this age often see a medium or large size dog as much bigger than they are and something fun to crawl on. This often ends up in the child sitting and bouncing on the dogs back. I see pictures and videos of this very experience oftenon social media. Adults view this as a cute scenario and you can hear their laughter as they are filming the incident
To fully understand this we need to remember dogs want to please us and they really do not want to hurt this child. As a result dogs will endure the child bouncing on them as long as possible. If you watch a dog during this kind of experience you will often see them begin "stress" licking with their tongue. Their eyes express stress and concern. They may begin anxiously moving their head or paws. A dogs back is not for jumping on, no matter the amount of weight. If left unsupervised this could end poorly for the child and the dog. A dog will react defensively to stop the pain and a child may be bitten. If this happens the dog will pay the price and be punished or worse surrendered to a shelter.
It is our responsibility as adults to prevent these kinds of situations from happening. Thus young children need constant supervision and especially when they are with a dog. This means active supervision. Not passive supervision like watching a TV program while the dog and child are playing together.
Young children need to have a positive experience meeting a dog for the first time. Having an adult at their side to make sure they are respectful and kind to the dog will help the child learn what is appropriate interaction with a dog. When this is positive and fun it is a win win for the dog and the child.
An older child of 8 or 9 years is able to have more responsibility with a dog. They can play with the dog in the yard by throwing a ball and they can reinforce learned behaviors like sit, stay, come, etc, the dog has learned in training. Even at this age a child should not have full responsibility for a dog. They need to learn these responsibilities from an adult who mentors and teaches the child how to meet the dogs needs. This too needs to be positive and fun for the child and the dog.
Children and dogs provide us with touching moments we will treasure for a lifetime. A child's memories of their canine best friend will be with that child always. How a child learns to relate to a dog in their childhood shapes how they will continue to relate to dogs as an adult. Respect and kindness shown to a dog will be returned many times over.
Woofs & Smiles!