In the minds of many kids, dogs are warm furry cuddly companions who love to be hugged and squeezed.
However, the dogs don’t see it this way. Hugs and squeezes? Not so much.
Different dogs have different temperaments, and from an early age children need to learn how to treat dogs respectfully. This will help reduce the incidence of dog attacks on children, and allow them to live peacefully together.
The term “temperament” refers to a dog’s general attitude and outlook. Dog temperament not only varies between breeds, but between individuals within a breed. For example, working breeds are known to be active and may not like to sit still.
When choosing a dog, take into account a dog’s temperament. If you have older children, you may be happier with an active dog that will rough and tumble with them. If you have younger children, you may prefer a quieter dog. Puppies and elderly dogs may be afraid of noisy children, and they may defend themselves with a nip.
Another important aspect of dog temperament is trainability. Intelligent dogs who are easy to train, and learn what’s expected of them quickly, are easier to teach to fit the family lifestyle. However, these dogs are often easily bored, and may be destructive if they don’t have enough mental stimulation.
It’s often easier to predict temperament with purebred dogs, as they tend to have a characteristic demeanor. Many breeders are now performing temperament testing to match each pup to the most suitable home.
If you are choosing a dog from a shelter, take your time and get to know the dog before deciding.
After you’ve chosen a dog with a suitable temperament for your family, you need to teach your children how to behave around it. Just like children, dogs don’t like to be disturbed when they are asleep. If a child takes a dog by surprise, then the dog may bite in fright. Teach your child not to disturb a sleeping dog.
Don’t let your child annoy your dog while it is eating. It may think your child is trying to take its food, and protect it aggressively. This can happen particularly if your dog is chewing on a bone. If your child is old enough, encourage them to take the dog to training classes. This will help the dog bond well with the child. Instead of classes you could use DVDs or books.
Children also need to learn how to behave around unfamiliar dogs. If your child wants to pat a strange dog, they must always ask the handler. Some dogs have a fearful or suspicious temperament, and may bite if approached.
Many youngsters are afraid of dogs, and for these children, the sight of a dog rushing at them is the stuff nightmares are made of. If a dog does rush at your child, teach them to stand very still with their arms against their body, don’t scream and don’t look into the dog’s eyes. If the dog knocks them over, they need to roll into a little ball and be very still and quiet.
If you choose a dog with an appropriate temperament for your family, and demonstrate to your child that dogs need to be treated with care, they can live in harmony and share many happy times.