The Top 5 Times a Child Should Never Pet a Dog
Dogs should not always be touched.
And, contrary to popular belief not all dogs like to be petted! For more on that click here
Actually when you force a dog that doesn’t care for petting to be petted or touched you are actually lowering their bite threshold, meaning they are more apt to bite. For more on understanding why even good dogs will bite click this link.
I always say, all dogs will bite, because it is true.
My mother said, if they have teeth, they can bite!
- And even Excitement can cause a dog without regular aggression issues to bite.
Click here to understand why Excitement Can Cause a Bite
The longer I work with dogs, the more I realize that even the most placid dog that allows anyone to "do anything to it;" will bite at some point.
And, I have also learned when a dog owner is overly confident that “HIS” dog has never bitten or will never bite; these are the dogs I am most cautious touching.
I have found that people rarely admit to aggression because most rationalize and deny it.
There Are General Rules for When Dogs Shouldn’t be Touched
There are some general rules for when dogs just shouldn’t be touched.
Most of us, adults, have a sixth sense and we tend to better recognize signs. Even if we can’t explain it, most of us can feel when a dog is telling us through body language that he doesn’t want to be touched or have any interaction.
Many children either don’t have this ability or simply bypass that cautious feeling that is telling them STOP.
And not all parents have spent enough time around dogs to know when to stop their children. Truth be told not ALL adults heed the feeling or notice when a dog is uncomfortable either!
So here is the list
#1. While Eating or Chewing
Not all dogs like to share.
Even if a dog will let you take his food or his chewies; he may not allow a child (whom he sees as less authoritative) to even get near him while he eats or chews.
Especially, respect dogs that are not your own and teach your children never to touch a dog that is eating or chewing on something that he values.
I used to temperament test dogs in the shelter and one of the tests a dog had to pass to be adopted to a family was a resource guarding test.
Many, many dogs failed this test.
Some would allow you to touch them, their bowl or even their food but would absolutely NOT tolerate anyone touching a rawhide or pigs ear.
Remember that your child looks like much less of a leader than you and is more likely to be severely bitten.
It’s just not worth the risk.
Respect the dog and teach your children not to touch while eating or chewing or put the dog in a locked crate so he is not bothered.
#2. While Playing
The same can be true with your dog’s toy OR someone else’s dog’s toy!
I watched a dog owner today get tagged by her dog because she took his toy.
The dog didn’t intentionally bite her because he was mad, he was just such a high drive dog that her hand was just in the way!
My dogs, also high drive, are always monitored while playing with children.
I teach my dogs to release and back up so the child can grab and throw the toy. But not all dogs are as well trained or monitored as mine and my dogs have all bitten me when they were younger going after a toy.
It just isn’t worth the risk.
I watched a group of children play “keep away” with a lovely Lab not long ago. He was never really given the opportunity to take the toy, but he was certainly more patient than any dog I have seen. I have worked with a lot of dogs that would have nailed one of those children for playing that game with them and not getting a chance to win!
Teach your children respect and don’t allow them to tease a dog relentlessly. Dogs have feelings and instincts too!
If you don’t know the dog, don’t let your child play!
Dogs that love toys and are excited can accidentally bite the fast moving hand of a child!
If you don’t trust the dog implicitly; don’t let your child play!
#3. While Sleeping
Even the best dog can startle while it is sleeping.
I was house/pet sitting the other night.
I knew where I was… I had driven myself there and fallen asleep in my guest bed.
Yet, at about 3 a.m., I had a bit of a nightmare barely conscious I sprung out of bed not quite sure where I was.
After hitting the ground with my feet and looking around in a dazed state; I realized where I was.
Don’t you figure dogs have moments like this, moments in between awake and asleep where they are slightly disoriented.
So if a child, bumps, kicks, falls on or even pets the dog it might wake with a startle and a little bit or a lot of teeth?
Again, in my humble opinion, it is just not worth the risk to the child.
Teach your children that if a dog is asleep it needs to be left alone, walked around, and respected.
#4. In Their Space
Like us humans, dogs like their own space.
I love being able to utilize a crate.
Sometimes my dogs get overwhelmed with the kids I now reside with, and my female, who loves the kids, crates herself or puts herself into a corner to sleep.
This is her way of taking a break or a time out.
I trust her with the kids, she loves them, but even she needs a break sometimes.
I go to my room and watch Netflix, take long soaking baths, read a book, go to the gym, go on a bike ride or play on the internet as a way to decompress.
Understand that dogs, too, need the ability to decompress and unwind.
Have a “no fly zone” where the kids can’t bother them so they can recharge their batteries. This is critical to a good dog remaining a GOOD DOG.
Even the most social people need a break and so do dogs!
#4. When they Aren’t Feeling Good
Sometimes dogs don’t feel good!
They get sore muscles.
They get the flu.
They get tired.
And, they suffer from age related changes like arthritis and other painful conditions.
Arthritis is a major cause of "new bad behavior"
The problem is; they can’t tell us.
We can’t ask them how their day was, what they did or how they are feeling.
If we could, we could give them space
#5. And of Course When They are Showing Warning Signs
Many dogs show signs when they don’t want to be bothered.
For some it is as trivial as a hard stare, stiffening, or freezing.
Others may snarl, growl or bark.
The important thing is to notice changes in behavior.
Not all dogs show outward blatant signals like growling or snarling.
Some dogs will nip or bite after staring and freezing, because to the dog, THAT WAS their warning signal!
I have a dog that when she interacts with other dogs will freeze and snarl.
There is no growl or bark.
So, if I am not watching her closely for signs of displeasure she could quickly escalate to a bite.
Dogs and children should be monitored together, period!
Know your dog, know your children and teach them both appropriate manners and above all keep an eye out!
Even the best dog can have a bad day!
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.