Sit on the groundMany people laugh when they see my stickers….sit on the ground not the hound.  This is NO joke.  Some think it is so obvious it need not be said.  Sadly many people think this is ok.  Or they know it is not a good idea but if the dog does not growl or bite…then he likes it.  We have a great deal of educating about being Dog Aware™.

Intelligent and caring parents make the mistake of expecting a dog to tolerate many things their child does.   What saddens me is the heartbreaking phone calls when a dog’s tolerance runs out.   When the subtle signals dogs use naturally to indicate stress, conflict or need for space, do not work then it is likely the dog will progress to a growl or bite.   Dogs are predictable and with more education and families become Dog Aware™ I know we can help parents make better choices to support life long relationships with dogs.

Headlines  I don’t usually like to comment and show things I DON”T want done.  I prefer to post things that are nice examples.  This however concerned me and I felt was a very good teachable moment.

Princess Charlotte make friends with HUGE dog and bounces on him.  One articles says jumps on him like a trampoline.  Let’s look at just a couple of things that could be very stressful for Charlotte’s new friend Moose.

  1.  Unfamiliar child to dog
  2.  Crowded space surrounded by people
  3. Lots of activity birthday party
  4. 16 months is an unsteady age
  5. LOTS of small children and excitement

I know I would NOT enjoy a child running over to me and bounding on my back if I were resting.  Not my own child and especially not an unfamiliar child.  Why is it we believe a dog should tolerate this?  “What a good dog.” often is heard in these situations.  This comment indicates we KNOW this is not something acceptable.  Why do it?

I compare this to when I was pregnant and the world thought my extended belly was a free for all to touch.  UM NO!  We all have spatial needs and boundaries and it is really important for us to teach our children this about animals too.  We don’t want our children rushing up to strangers and hugging them but yet it is “ok” for them to do this to strange dogs?  Think about it!  this is not fair or comfortable and the bottom line is if a dog does vocalize or complain he is likely to be punished or put down.  We really need to shift our expectations.

Dogs do not enjoy bouncing weight on their backs and even if they “tolerate” it one time this definitely does not mean they will continue to do so.  The likelihood actually is that they will begin to dread and anticipate small children as painful and intrusive.  This can be a huge problem for the next child the dog encounters. We must create mutually comfortable interactions when it comes to encounters with young children and dogs.  Not all kids want to touch dogs and not all dogs want to be touched.  No dog enjoys being sat on.

Another concern by allowing this behavior is that a child may think Mommy and Daddy love when I sit on dogs.  Pictures and videos are taken…. everyone laughs.  This is very reinforcing for most toddlers and they will repeat this with not only that dog but other dogs too.

What I would like to suggest to help families tempted by setting up these “cute” situations is to become familiar with subtle signals dogs offer indicating stress or a need for space.

Dog Aware parents learn about body language that is seen WAY before a grumble or snap.  Most likely in all of these riding dog encounters the dog is offering signals but they are not being received by the trusted adult because they are unaware of them.   Here are just a couple.

Licking lips

Turning away, head turn

Whale eye (whites of eyes)

Shifting weight

Checking in with adult (making eye contact)

Yawning

Sniffing ground

Freezing

Changes in breathing speed

Closed mouth

Tight facial muscles

These all are ways that dogs attempt to communicate before escalating to a growl or snap.  If these attempts are missed too many times dogs may offer less signals and snap or growl sooner.   This is why many say the dog bit out of the blue.  Often parents think because “he always was fine before” or “they have always done that with him and he loved it.” or “he never leaves and lets them do anything to him.”  Each of these are things we hear multiple times a day about great dogs that are misunderstood due to a need for families to become Dog Aware™  We all think we know our dogs and how dogs behave but the reality is that we are not dogs and our communication

Having toddlers and dogs together is a full time job.  It can be hard especially if you do not know what to look for.  Family Paws Parent Educators offer ongoing support and resources dedicated to dog and baby/toddler dynamics.  Don’t wait until you NEED us…..call us when things are going well so we can help them go GREAT!

If you have questions or are interested in learning and becoming a Dog Aware parent we invite you to reach out to us on our hotline 877 247-3407 or find one of our licensed Family Paws Parent Educators near you!