Often, we see kids playing with dogs in a park or videos of a dog being protective of an infant. The Internet is full of such images and videos. Such content is bound to entice a viewer to wish for the same thing. Parents bring a dog home just to achieve that social media-worthy life and forget that it is the kid and the dog who have to bond with each other and not them. The bond that kid and dog share is subjective. Some may end up being naturally comfortable with each other while other’s preferences might change with time. Yes, dogs are man’s best friends, but it takes two to tango. The willingness to bond and show affection has to come from both sides and not just one. The connection between a dog and a kid can be a little tricky in the beginning, but if done right, it can go a long way.
The first thing to understand is that dogs are not robots; they have feelings and emotions too. If you are getting a dog, you can not expect it to behave exactly how you want. They have their own emotions- set and preferences. There will be times when your dog will just wish to be alone and have a personal space. To prevent unnecessary bites, we all must respect the personal space of a kid as well as a dog. Forced connections will bring no good, but a real connection can help with growth and cognitive development while the dog charms up your home.
To create a dog-friendly environment, parents can follow the following tips about a dog’s body language and methods to help both the parties bond.
Let your Child and Dog do the Bonding.
Have you seen an instance where parents force their kids into uncomfortable situations like making friends with somebody else’s kid or perform something even if they don’t want to? Such unnecessary pressure can harm a child as it can lead to social anxieties or make them uncomfortable in social settings. A dog’s case is similar too. If forced to do something a dog is not comfortable in, it can lash out or even attack the owner. By eliminating the pressure, such outcomes are avoidable.
Don’t force your love for dogs onto your child. Let them decide for themselves. Not every kid likes dogs, and not all dogs love kids. Let them both make this decision for themselves. The true bond is possible if both of them truth each other and respect each other’s boundaries. Teach the concept of consent to your kid. Teach the kid not to bother the dog until it shows clear signs of consent- something that might exhibit its playful mood. Nobody likes unwanted interruptions neither does your dog.
Many times, children are scared of dogs. If it is the case with your kid, don’t try to pull the fear out by pushing you kid in the situations he is terrified of; choose the path of slow and steady interactions. Ask your kid to watch the dog from a safe distance or try offering treats to the dog. Let the dog come to you when it feels comfortable enough and let the kid accept a dog when he is ready to. Unnecessary petting and interactions only cause bites and attacks.
Body Language says a lot.
As dogs can’t express themselves with words, they use their body to exhibit their feelings. As owners, it is our responsibility to pay attention to these signs to understand how our dog is feeling. Dogs use their eyes and ears to show signs of stress and discomfort. Pay attention to the white part of the dog eye, the sclera, and note the focus and intensity of the dog’s gaze. Due to tension and stress, dog eyes may appear rounder than they are; or they may show the white part of the eyes a little, sometimes known as a whale eye. Dilated Pupils or glassy eyes can also mean that the dog is feeling threatened or tense. Relaxed and floppy ears say that the dog is at ease but backed up ears or flat ears may be a sign of stress. Similarly, the tail can help us understand if a dog is happy or not. In stressful or threatening situations, dogs tuck their tails between their legs.
When you see your dog getting uncomfortable or looking away, then it is your responsibility to break the interaction and give both parties a break.
The right way to pet a dog
Huzannah B. Joseph came up with a technique that includes all the things mentioned above. The name of the technique is Pet, Pet, and then stop. The term, as you can guess by the name, means that you should pet your dog once/twice and then pause to see the dog’s reaction- whether he likes it or not. The pause in between the actions allows the dog and kid to understand each other and react calmly instead of causing a sudden reaction, which generally is an attack. Children should avoid petting the dog right on the head as it is a sensitive area and may alarm the dog. Dogs can sense the unpredictable behavior of a kid. Therefore, petting a dog on the shoulder or back will not startle it. It gives the dog a chance to decide how it wants to proceed with it. If it is uncomfortable, it will walk away. You must respect a dog’s will in such bonding or interaction activities. If given some space and time, dogs may initiate an interaction themselves.