It’s sound advice given frequently: Supervise your dogs and kids while they are together. Breeders warn parents, “Don’t leave the dog alone with children, no matter how friendly the breed.” Veterinarians advise, “Never leave a dog and a child in the same room together.” Dog trainers explain, “All dogs can bite so supervise your dog when you have children over.” Everyone knows the drill. So why doesn’t it work? Why are there an estimated 800,000 Americans seeking medical attention for dog bites each year, with over half of these injuries to children ages 5-9?
The bites are not a result of negligent parents leaving Fido to care for the baby while mom does household chores, oblivious to the needs of her children. In fact, I’ve consulted on hundreds of dog bite cases and 95% of the time the parent was standing within 3 feet of the child watching both child and dog when the child was bitten. Parents are supervising. The problem is not lack of supervision. The problem is no one has taught parents what they should be watching.
Parents generally have not received any education on what constitutes good dog body language and what constitutes an emergency between the dog and the child. Parents generally have no understanding of the predictable series of canine body cues that would indicate a dog might bite. And complicating matters further, most parents get confused by the good intentions of the child and fail to see when a dog is exhibiting signs of stress. The good new is all of this is easy to learn! We can all get better at this.
Here is a simple list to help you improve your supervision skills:
To pet owners, particularly those who also have children, thank you for supervising your dog! As a dog trainer and mother of two, I know that juggling kids and dogs is no easy feat. It takes patience, understanding, and a great deal of supervision. I hope these tips will help you get better at supervising.