Personal space is an amazing thing! It is quite important to most humans... Maybe even more important than ever before since the COVID pandemic hit. We all suddenly became very aware of how close we were to each other and our 6 foot bubble. As humans we have our own sacred space in terms of property too... Our homes, bedrooms and even our bathrooms if you really get down to the minutia. If someone enters that space uninvited, it will certainly elicit an angry, scared, confused or sudden response from us.
It is interesting though, often when I mention personal space in reference to dogs, people look at me with their head tilted to the side almost like it is some thing they never considered before. I always wondered why we (usually) respect each others personal space but we don't think of it when referencing our dogs?
A multitude of dog bites come from a dog being bothered when it is resting or when they have their personal space violated. This is such an easy rule to follow! Allow interaction by having your dog go to your kids, not the other way around. For example, if your dog is sleeping on their dog bed and your child wants to cuddle. While well intentioned.. how annoying to the dog? This of it in human terms mentioned above. If you're resting in your bed and your friend barges in and plops down next to you? You may or MAY NOT like that. Most of the time, our dogs tolerate this kind of behavior over and over again because they trust us and are usually good natured. However, tolerance level goes down over time. If your friend barged in on you in your bed room once a week... you may be more annoyed the 5th time then if they did it once and never to be done again.
When you teach these boundaries to your child, show your child that your dog has to follow that same. Don't allow your dog to bug your child when they're resting, in bed or eating. Your child will learn mutual respect of another being and it will surely grow the trust between the entire family.
These sweet images of Keaton and Sage may look effortless and easy. A child and dog loving each other as they “should” be. Well.. this is the result of a lot of behind the scenes hard work. Don’t be fooled, managing kids and dogs is an ongoing, attentive process they everyone in the family group needs to pay mind to.
We supervise every interaction and have corrected inappropriate behavior by interrupting and showing appropriate behavior. Keaton is not allowed to mess with the dogs, and the dogs are now allowed to mess with him. I'm going to repeat that.. Keaton is NOT ALLOWED TO MESS WITH THE DOGS ever under any circumstances. We play mutually fun games and are always paying attention to our dogs behavior to ensure they are comfortable with the current situation. Just like humans, dogs learn from their experiences. Their only form of communication is through body language. If their body language changes, they’re trying to communicate. If you’re not listening and watching, you will miss it.
A little while ago I was out walking with a dog training client and we stopped to talk to a neighbor. We were exchanging fun dog stories when the mom on 1 toddler said something like.. my dog is so dumb she I don't understand why she doesn't stick up for herself and finally bite my son. Naturally, this seriously peaked my interest for a number of reasons.. She proceeded to tell us how they allow their two-year-old to "beat on" their dog. Her words, not mine. When I asked her to define "beat on", she explained how the toddler body slams her while she’s sleeping in her bed, squeezes her up against the wall and will run over her and tackle her. She said they’re waiting for their dog (who is ten pounds lighter then the toddler) to bite him so he learns his lesson.
Needless to say, I told her everything that was on my mind, which was A LOT. I kindly began to describe how simple it is to manage these situations and imperative it is to not allow these situations to occur. Her dog will run out of patience soon enough. Her son will think you can treat any dog this way thus makes a recipe for disaster when he visits other homes who have dogs and this is entirely unfair to her dog. She unfortunately didn't really care to hear my suggestions and said you can’t tell a two year old to do anything and ignored me by justifying that her dog lives a wonderful happy spoiled life.
I beg to differ. This is abuse and months later I am still sick to my stomach just thinking about the torment that poor dogs is doing through.
I don’t judge any parent. This stuff is HARD. It takes constant observation, managing. reassessing and I am fully aware there are many types of children out there that can make listening to directions difficult. But as a parent and dog owner you must take responsibility to protect both your child and your dog. You cannot allow mistreatment. If you can’t stop your child or dog, then you can separate them and call a trainer for assistance.
That mother is allowing her toddler to abuse her dog. She’s waiting for her dog to bite him instead of parenting him. She’s showing her dog she will not help her, the dog is on her own. Soon enough, this dog will “bite out of no where” and who knows what after that. The toddler could get hurt. Everyone loses because the parents made a choice not to listen.
We can do better. Let's do better!
I am the trainer here at Love Dogs and adopted Sage from Love Dogs five years ago then had my son Keaton three years later. I also have two other delightful doggies at home! From the moment my son was brought home, my husband and I worked hard to teach Keaton and the dogs to respect each other.
Over time, I would send videos to the other staff here showing the dynamics specifically between Keaton and Sage because while it looks like so little is happening.. really SO MUCH COMMUNICATION is going on when you look a little deeper. Our director said.. you really should showcase these "Ah-ha Moments" to help other families learn to read social interactions between their kids and dogs.. and I thought.. WOW what a great idea! So here we are!
Ah-ha Moments on Managing Kids & Dogs