Kids and dogs; picture perfect aren't they? They definitely can be and I believe that having dogs and children is good for both but it can also be a bad situation if certain protocols are not kept up. Often dogs and children and thrown together without a second thought and things go very wrong.
Supervision is the most important factor when children and dogs are spending time together. My thought is that dogs should NEVER, EVER be alone with children without supervision. I recently met a girl at a vet office; she was explaining to me how she had two goldens; a wonderfully friendly breed. She has a little girl; I believe around 4 years of age who she trusts with her dogs completely. She felt that this "never leave your dogs alone with your child" thing was ridiculous. She said that she felt that if you can trust your dogs with your child then you shouldn't have this dog/s.
That's a nice thought for a dream world but this is reality and dogs are dogs. Heck; people do bad things when we aren't watching as do dogs. As a trainer I have been called in often to fix a child/dog situation. Almost always the problem lies with the adults and not the dog at all. After watching the typical interactions between the child and dog; I'm sometimes left shuddering as a Mother and trainer.
"If you don't stop, she is going to bite you." This phrase always leaves me wondering how parents can leave the disciplining of their child up to their dog. Yes if you let your child bother your dog enough; they may bite them and then what? Then the dog is going to go; or the dog will be banished to the backyard where they either lead a lonely sad life or things go from bad to worse.
As a canine guardian it is our job to protect our dogs; as a parent it is our job to protect our children. When you are both you have a big responisibility; educating, guiding, disciplining and SUPERVISING. Supervision is huge; and a must with dogs and children. The fact is that if your child is bitten by your dog and you were not there to witness it; you don't know what happened do you? Kids do weird things and they aren't going to tell you that they tried to put earrings on the dog or thought that your dog needed her teeth brushed are they?
One of my child/dog calls back a couple of years ago was for a toddler and a very large breed dog. Within minutes of meeting this family I had goosebumps and was up out of my seat intervening. The cold hard facts were that this child WAS going to be bitten. Sometimes my job as trainer is to give people the scarey facts of what can happen. Giving parents a glimpse of what is going on can sometimes be a reality check.
Letting a dog discipline your children is a very bad idea. If you leave your child unchecked to annoy your dog then your dog is left to defend themselves. Which may mean biting; and that is the cold hard truth. I've brought many parents to tears as the realization sinks in as to what could have happened when their child and dog are left unsupervised.
One such call was a tiny 2 year old who within minutes of my arrival was crawling on the newly acquired family dogs head. This dog was close to 100 lbs more than the weight of the child and growling. I wasn't sitting for long; I scooped up the child and explained.
A growl is a communication; one that children simply don't hear or don't react upon. Yes many dogs just growl and that is as far as it goes but when children are involved it should never be ignored. Dogs do not just bite; dogs give many warning signals and if you aren't there to see them; that is when children get bitten.
On the other side of the supervision wheel is protecting your dog from annoying child behaviors. Things like crawling on your dog, staring in the dogs face, poking and proding or just general annoying children things. You cannot have a casual "children will be children" attitude with children and dogs.
When you protect both child and dogs; it is a win win situation.