Children are the most common victims of dog aggression. It is more likely that a child will be bitten by the family dog than by an unknown dog. Naturally this happens because there’s more interaction, but there are other common causes, including:
Lack of Supervision
Familiarity with your dog creates unrealistic expectations for his behavior. Thinking that he understands human rules and that he’d never bite a family member tricks some dog owners into leaving kids around the dog without proper supervision. This is a formula for disaster.
Rude Human Behaviors
Adults are usually more polite and respectful of a dog’s space than kids are. While not meaning to cause harm, kids are more likely to engage in rude behaviors like hair pulling, yelling and even slapping the dog.
Dogs that are routinely scolded are more likely to develop fear and superstitious aggression toward people. So a dog that has been punished by its owner may react to a child’s movement out of fear, resulting in a bite. This is particularly true because kids mimic their parent’s behavior, so a parent that punishes the dog is modeling aggressive behavior that can lead to trouble when the child repeats it.
Kids should participate in dog training exercises and be taught the proper way to interact with a dog. Sometimes they are not given clear rules about what behavior is permitted around the dog. As Piaget, Kohlberg or any other child psychologist can tell you, young children don’t get the full impact of their actions on others. So without clear guidance from adults, they can engage in mean behaviors which the dog is likely to respond to.
Here are some tips to help you prevent dog aggression toward children.
Train as a Family
Involve your kids in training your dog. Let them practice obedience commands with him so that he gets used to following their orders and they learn to communicate properly with him.
Make sure there is adult level supervision available when young kids are around the family dog. Even if your dog never shows aggression toward young kids, he may still be getting picked on when left alone with them – so it’s good to have a watchful eye.
Make sure young kids know to give dogs their space and that there are clear rules about play. No roughhousing or hitting should be permitted. Make it clear that they should not corner the dog.
It’s also a good idea to keep kids away from the dog’s food dish and favorite treats (especially bones). While you should interact with him around these items to ensure he is used to humans doing so, young children are not suited for that type of training.
Also, young children should not be permitted to punish the family dog. That is a formula for disaster.
Provide your dog with a space of his own so that he can be safe and secure when you can’t supervise him. This prevents trouble and makes his life more enjoyable.
Select the Right Characteristics
When picking out a family dog, look for a dog that has the right characteristics. You want a non-reactive dog that has a high level of frustration tolerance (that is, he can put up with a lot). Mixed breed dogs often make excellent family dogs, while pure breeds sometimes don’t (especially when the breed line has been kept more for appearance than character).
Preventing dog aggression toward children is relatively easy. By training as a family, setting clear expectations for behavior and supervising your kids around the dog, you can keep everyone safe and happy.
Want more dog training help?
Dog Academy: Online Dog Training Programs
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