We’ve all been taught the common signs to look out for when a dog is going to bite. Everyone knows to avoid that dog that is growling, or lungeing on the lead or snarling and backing away. Nobody seems to be taught the silent signals. The ones that aren’t as obvious but mean the same thing as a growl.
One of the recent school talks I saw was teaching children to hold their hand out and approach the dog to let it sniff their hand and then to immediately pat the dog. I was horrified. There was no education about how to tell if the dog actually wanted the child to approach. Just because the owner says it’s ok, doesn’t mean that the dog is feeling the same way and our kids need to be taught this. Just because the dog isn’t growling, doesn’t mean that the dog is happy to be approached.
Becoming very still is a sign that is often misunderstood as a signal that the dog is ok to approach. Becoming very still is a dogs very clear way of communicating that it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes it can be accompanied by licking of the lips, sometimes it will be accompanied by the turning away of the head and a ‘moon eye’. Sometimes the dogs mouth will suddenly appear shorter in length and sometimes this can even be directly after the dog has been wagging it’s tail because guess what, a wagging tail does not necessarily equal a happy dog.
One very clear way to tell if your dog would like to interact is by asking the child to hold still and put out their hand. Without putting pressure on the lead, gesture to your dog to move forward to the child, if your dog doesn’t move forward, DON’T make it!
There is no rule that says that your dog has to interact with a child just because the child or you or anyone else wants it to happen. Don’t be afraid to stand up for your dog and tell the other parent or child that your dog doesn’t want to be patted today. Don’t be afraid to hurt the childs feelings by saying no, because guess what, a dog bite hurts a lot longer than a “no” ever will.
Below is a picture of my daughter and one of her friends “Chief”. I started teaching my daughter at 5.5 months of age how to interact and haven’t stopped since. She is almost 2 and we are so proud of how she behaves around animals. She understands the basics of dog safety very clearly and she also understand the consequences of breaking any rules we have set out. As a result, animals are naturally more calm around her as she isn’t erratic or unpredictable around them and her approach towards them doesn’t make them uncomfortable.
Keeping our kids safe is a huge passion of mine and it’s not that hard to learn how to do. Education is key and if you own a dog and have anything to do with children then it is your responsibility to go out and seek the education needed to keep both of them safe. There are lots of free tips like this available online, and plenty of passionate dog trainers who are more than willing to help out also. There is no excuse for lack of education or motivation to do this. If you need help with keeping your kids and dogs safe, please contact us. We are always here to help 🙂