The relationship between humans and dogs has been evolving for thousands of years. They have become part of our families; often being referred to as “fur-kids” by their owners. We have invited them into our homes, cars and sometimes even jobs. This is why when one of our trusted companions bites someone, we are shocked! Sadly, the majority of these incidents involve children.
In order to really respect a dog as part of our family, we have to be able to communicate with them effectively. This doesn’t just mean dogs obeying our commands, but also us humans understanding what they are trying to say. Since dogs can’t speak, we have to rely on their body language. Recognizing when a dog is overly excited or afraid is critical when they are interacting with children. When a dog is overstimulated, they are much more likely to bite.
While it is important for adults to be able to read a dog’s body language, it is a difficult thing for children to understand. For that reason, children should NEVER be left alone with a dog, even one they’ve known their whole lives. Even the most patient, well behaved dogs can reach their breaking points. Children must be taught how to respect a dog’s personal space. You wouldn’t let your children climb all over company or pull on grandma’s ears because it's rude. The same rules should apply to your dog.
Dr. Juanita Ashton, BSc, DVM, ACDBC-IAABC is a certified Canine Behavioural Consultant, and one of the owners of the Elmsdale Animal Hospital