Parents need to supervise and instruct their kids, and visiting kids and parents, regarding activities they can, and should not, do with the family dog. Unfortunately, most people leave all this up to chance instead of purposely teaching and enforcing appropriate boundaries. That’s why a lot of kids end up injured. Furthermore, many parents wait until it is too late, after the child has been bitten to address the dog’s behavior and obedience issues.
There are a lot of general boundaries that parents should teach and enforce with kids and guests. For example: leaving a dog alone when eating; not getting in a dog’s face; no chase games; no wrestling with the dog; not doing anything to tease or hurt the dog, especially if it has medical issues; not messing with dogs while they are sleeping; not lashing out at the dog when angry; not letting babies mess with any dog; and not getting involved if the dog gets in a fight with another pet. Obviously, there are a lot more situations, too many to list here. Yet, parents see these things go on and on, nagging their kids (which never works), and then someone gets hurt. Sometimes seriously.
I have had parents inquire about lessons to teach their dog to tolerate anything the kids do to the dog. I have to patiently explain that no animal can be taught to endure all types of harassment and pain. At some point, every animal has a defense mechanism which will cause them to fight back. Most of these requests come from parents that want to blame the dog, instead of their lack of proper supervision and training of their kids. They get extremely offended, to the point of getting snippy or hanging up in the midst of the phone call. You can then guess what happens to the dog… banishment, more punishment, rehoming where the dog is euthanized by the shelter, or outright death after they take the dog to a vet to be put down. People with such low standards of behavior for themselves and their kids should have kids or dogs.
These same boundaries need to be given and supervised with all guests, as well. Some guests intentionally, or unknowingly, cross behavior boundaries with dogs, causing defensive or fearful reactions from the dogs. Some think it funny to provoke dogs into extreme emotional reactions. In reality, they not only don’t give the dog the respect any pet deserves, they are also disrespecting the owner (family member or friend). Some guests don’t have a clue, but still wind the dog up into these same emotional reactions. Hopefully, these are the types that can be better supervised, such as kids, or instructed, such as teenagers and adults. However, some people should be banned from being around your dog, period.
Then there is the dog. This is partly what Obedience Training is all about. Not just coming when called, or doing a Sit Stay. Practical obedience helps a dog learn to tolerate and understand normal handling and human interactions. It also gives the owner tools to use to manage the dog around kids and guests. Dogs often get in trouble and blamed for the problems, however they are not trained, and the blame is unjustified. The first one to blame is that person you see in the mirror every morning. If you haven’t trained your dog, then you are not being a responsible dog owner. Doubly so if you have kids. More so if family and friends come over and the dog isn’t behaving appropriately. Homeowners nsurance companies pay out more claims for dog incidents than any other situation. Think how many irresponsible people out there are causing all of this mayhem. It is all fine and dandy until it is your kid, or your body, that is damaged.
In my Obedience Classes, we do more than just teach dogs to do commands. Lessons are customized to address your home situation and your particular dog. That is why lessons start in your home, not in some classroom. I can see what is going on, I’m another set of eyes, to interpret what is happening and to suggest better safety techniques and explain how to do the lessons to fit your lifestyle. After that, then you will be responsible to take what you have learned, and then apply it to all the random things you and your dog will encounter over the years. You will also have to exercise caution and common sense, which can’t ever be totally taught in a class. You have to take responsibility to be a good supervisor, and to maintain your dog’s training, to make it all work. As kids get older, their behaviors change, and their interactions with the dog can change, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Same is true for adults. Same is true as your dog ages. What your dog is doing now might change as your dog gets older. Some dogs need a refresher course in training, or more training. Some dogs develop medical issues, such as allergies, arthritis, organ damage, or infections like Valley Fever, which can change a tolerant trained dog into an edgy intolerant less obedient dog. Thus, it still will be about vigilant supervision and instruction for everyone, and the need to get professional advice if these changes start becoming of a concern.
Boundaries need to be taught and supervised, for both the dogs and the people. No boundaries? Expect, eventually, there will be trouble.
In the end, well supervised dogs, kids and adults do better together. Well trained dogs, kids and adults do better together. Well supervised and trained dogs, kids and adults do best. The responsibility, and ultimate fault, lies with the adult owners of the dog. That’s you.