Dog-Proofing Your Kids
Lovable dogs and kids playing together are almost a staple in the movie industry. The camera pans lovingly over a golden-hued scene of children playing with big fluffy dogs while a voice-over tells us how from the dog’s point of view how much he loves his people while stirring music plays in the background. You can almost see it in your mind’s eye, can’t you?
Except . . . it’s not true.
Dogs are great. They’re smart, lovable, funny, great to have around, and loyal to a fault. They’re always happy to see you and they’re great early warning systems to alert you to visitors. As a politician once remarked about Washington D.C., “If you want a friend, get a dog.”
But for all that, they’re animals not people, and that can spell problems around your children. There are a lot of different adverse childhood experiences children can have but getting bit by a dog has to rate pretty high on the list.
You can prevent problems by taking a few, commonsense precautions and consistently enforcing some rules about your children playing with your dog.
When dogs play with each other it can be very rough and tumble. They nip and bite at each other but their coats protect them. They’ll roll around or chase each other frantically then roll around. They indulge in something called “mouth wrestling” where they rear up and try to get their mouths around their opponent’s mouth. This involves wide-open mouths and lots of teeth.
If a dog places his front legs low on the ground while sticking his rump high in the high, it’s a universal sign that he or she is ready to play. If they stand up straight and stiff, they either don’t want to play or they’ve had enough and want to end it.
If you understand these simple rules for dog play you’ll have a better idea of what is happening when they play with your children. They’re not attacking, they’re just playing by their inborn rules.
Never let young children play with a dog unsupervised. One parent, or both, should always be on hand to make sure the dogs don’t get overly excited. They can often misinterpret the body language and signals children give out, turning aggressive without intending to cause harm. They also don’t understand how easily children can be scratched or hurt.
Once a dog reaches the over-excited point it can be very difficult to calm them down or even catch them. This is where dog shock collars can be very handy. As long as you’ve got the remote control, you can zap your dog from anywhere in the room. The shock will snap them out of their frenzy without harming your children. The jolt doesn’t cause any permanent damage but it gets their attention right away.
The ease and simplicity of use make a shock collar one of the lesser-known must-haves in a kid-friendly home. They work quickly from a distance and if you issue a stern, “No!” at the same time as you shock the dog, they’ll quickly learn which behavior earns them an unpleasant jolt.
You can also teach your children some simple rules for dealing with strange dogs they might encounter on the street or at the park. Known as the Be A Tree rules, they are simple and easy to remember.
The first thing your child should do is stop. Dogs are programmed by nature to chase their prey. Running will trigger their instincts even when they don’t mean any harm. Standing stiff and straight is a recognizable signal to them that the other dog (or child) doesn’t want to play.
● Pull in Your Branches
Let your children know that dogs are bored by trees. Tell them to pretend they’re a tree and think of their arms like branches. Dogs like to jump at things overhead, so by lowering their arms, their branches, and clasping their hands in front of them, your children will lessen the chances of the dogs trying to nip at their arms, hands, or fingers.
● Watch Your Roots Grow
Making eye contact with an animal is a sign of interest and/or hostility. Strange dogs will often interpret a staring contest as a challenge and become aggressive. Teach your children to stare at their feet – watching their roots grow – and the dog will soon lose interest.
Dogs are great, and with a few simple rules for them and your kids, they can be safe too.