Help!! My Dog Hates Kids
I have had the same question a lot lately, and when I have several people with the same question sometimes it is easiest to write a blog post so it can be explained and shared with others.
It seems like there are lots of dogs out there that hate kids, or at least are very intolerant of them.
Sometimes, I find myself feeling the same way as actual parenting is on the decline and wild children seem to be on the rise.
And, of course let me say up front that if your dog is aggressive or you are afraid he might bite or inflict serious pain on any child that it is crucial that you seek help from a veterinary behaviorist. Since I cannot see the behavior I can’t get into a lot about aggression; since each dog is different. A veterinary behaviorist can come to your house, see your dog and witness the intricacies of the behaviors and put you both on a program of behavior modification.
But I can help with some understanding and give you some ideas about keeping everyone as safe as possible.
Any Dog With Teeth Will Bite Under the Right Circumstances
First it is important to admit the problem.
A lot of times I hear statements like “He growls at kids but he would never bite them” (for more on that article click here)
It is important to recognize that a growl, or a snarl, or a nip is a precursor to aggression. These are warnings that the dog does not like whatever situation he is in, or what is going on around him.
His bite threshold is lowered when he gives these warnings. And quite frankly sometimes a growl is a good thing, for more on understanding that and why; click here.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking your dog (who shows these signs) will never bite. This only puts your dog at risk of losing his life, and another person or child at risk of being bitten or mauled.
Honestly, any dog that has teeth could or will bite under the right circumstances.
Although I often try to understand why a dog shows a particular behavior, sometimes when you get down to it; it doesn’t matter.
Understanding why does not excuse the behavior (especially with aggression) so it is important not to make excuses. To see how you can work with your dog to control their impulsive behavior, click here.
However, I think some dogs do not understand children.
Children Don’t Look Like Small Adults
Kids don’t look like small adults to some dogs.
Children do not act like small adults either. They run, they scream, they squeal, they stomp and jump and have all kinds of behaviors that most dogs consider appalling.
They also invade dogs’ space and try to do things like hug and kiss dogs (which is horribly bad behavior to dogs for more on understanding that and why click here).
A lot of dogs don’t like their space invaded and they don’t want to feel like a child is “mounting” them; which is what a hug feels like to a dog.
Kids also pet extremely fast, usually over the top of the head, which is also less tolerated by a lot of dogs. And, sometimes they are rough and want to do things like ride them, or put things on them or tease them.
Dogs then begin to associate these behaviors with all children and begin disliking them as a whole.
It Can Be Hard to Find Kids with Good Animal Manners
Children that sit still, pet gently, pet one at a time, pet dogs under their chins, remain calm and still and respect animals are hard to find.
This kind of treatment takes lots of good teaching and parenting skills.
For more on teaching your children to be kind and mindful of animals and educating others click here.
Honestly, It Doesn’t Matter
Honestly it doesn’t matter how the child acts or what the child does; it is a dog owner’s responsibility to keep a bite from happening; NO MATTER WHAT. This doesn’t mean I agree with kids abusing animals, I don’t; but it is a dog owner’s job to keep an eye over and control his dog.
It is your job to stop the child before he gets to your dog, control your dog around children, and/or muzzle your dog if you know you can’t control him.
If you were taken to court, the judge is probably not going to have a lot of sympathy for a dog owner whose dog bites or mauls a child. The dog will undoubtedly be euthanized and the child will probably be scarred for life.
Neither of which is an acceptable outcome.
So What Do You Do?
You keep everyone SAFE!
People mistakenly think that throwing these dogs in with kids (even well behaved kids) is the way to work through this, however this can be seriously risky.
It is like the concept of flooding. If you hate spiders I am not going to force you to be locked down and then release tarantulas all over your body, it is probably going to make you worse.
Forcing your dog to socialize and be petted by children is dangerous when you have a dog that has warned you that he doesn’t like them.
You can still have well mannered children toss treats to your dog’s feet without ever risking a bite just make sure they understand that they still can’t pet when they are done with the treats (sometimes people think after they toss treats they can pet).
You can also use a basket muzzle on your dog to make sure that forced interaction (when you have children in your dog’s space) is as safe as possible.
If It Was My Dog??
I would avoid loud and crazy kids like the plague, and if I couldn’t control the kids I would head in the other direction.
If I could control the kids and they were well mannered I would have them toss great treats toward my dog’s feet.
But ultimately I would teach my dog to give me attention and be able to learn to relax around kids (kinda like the spiders). I want to give my dog something else to do that he is capable with that gives him confidence and trust in me for help on teaching your dog Eye Contact and Focus click here.
Forcing him to sit nicely and be petted (when he doesn’t want to) takes all of that trust away and can force a bite. Not all dogs enjoy being petted for more on that click here.
If I was truly concerned, I would utilize a basket muzzle (for more on that and why I love muzzles click here).
And, if my step kids were to have some kind of wild party full of wild kids I would crate my dog so he didn’t have to suffer.
I don’t want to avoid children altogether or not train around them (always at a safe distance or with a muzzle), but when you are not in control, sometimes it is best to just keep everyone safe.
You have to work at a safe distance, where your dog is showing no signs of stress and give him or her some coping mechanisms using treats and toys while teaching him to trust you.
And, I hate to say it; but you have to be prepare to yell at or discourage children from running up to your dog for more on that and why click here.
As much as I hate to be the bad guy, I would rather yell at a kid or his parents to stop his advancement rather than have him/her set me back in my training or risk my dog biting.
I had a dog that was nervous of people (not kids specifically) but I got very use to discouraging people from petting him (more on that here) and making sure that he and everyone else was as safe as possible.
And, I never let my guard down. Even when his behaviors got better and more controllable, I would never have allowed him to be forced to be petted!
It was a better situation to keep people from petting him and for me to be the one in control of him and his rewards!
Obedience is paramount! It is crucial that you have absolute control when you take a dog like this out. He must have his basic and advanced dog obedience down to 95% or more reliability. Sometimes control over your dog is all you have for a minute or two before you get control of the child.
I need to trust that my dog can sit, down, stay, give me eye contact and that I can control his anxiety prior to exposing him to his triggers and that can take a lot of time and obedience training.
If you are going to keep a dog like this be safe and be honest with yourself, and devote your life and time to obedience training and that is the best advice I can give.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.