Dogs are famously loyal and protective. That applies not only to the dog’s owner, but to any children in the family as well. However, it’s essential that both sides observe a few clear rules in order to maintain a healthy relationship.
First, small children and pet dogs should never be left alone with each other no matter how well-behaved the dog is or how sensible the child, recommends Germany’s BPT association of veterinary surgeons.
Supervision means actively watching over how the dog and child are interacting. If that’s not possible, then it’s best to separate them.
It’s also important that your child learns how to deal with a dog. Signals such as a dog averting its gaze or licking its lips are subtle indications of stress. If your child does not react to these signals, you may have to interject. According to the BPT, a child learns to recognise these signals starting from about the age of eight.
Stroking a pet in an opposite direction, unwanted cuddles or suddenly waking a dog should be clear no-goes for your child.
Every dog should also have a spot where it can retreat to and relax, and where there is food, water and something to play with. Children should not disturb a dog that has decided to retreat to its spot.
Dog owners should also train their pet to take a break when it has had enough action.
Every relationship will experience its problems, including that between a dog and a human.
Mitigate this by avoiding situations that are known to cause such problems, for example, that a dog should not be disturbed while eating, and a pet’s toys should be kept separate. – dpa