Almost 5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year! Half or more of those bites are on children. And many of those bites are on the child’s face! Dog-bite related injuries are highest in kids who are 5-9 years old.
This article will help to safeguard your own children or any child you welcome into your home and around your dog. Be sure to teach your children how to act correctly around dogs because each dog is different and each is equipped with serious weaponry. But first you have to know how to act properly…
If you want to allow your kid to manhandle your own dogs that’s your business but be forewarned… dogs don’t usually like hugs and when we wrap our arms around them and put our face in their face it can be taken as a sign of dominance (like when a dog wraps their arms around another dog to hump them) (or when two dogs get too tense for too long at a face to face meeting). Hugs and kissing can make a nervous dog totally uncomfortable because there is no escape route in sight…which can quickly escalate from flight to fight!
A dog is all about it’s body. I know you may think you are too (especially you gals who try to line up with whichever new Hollywood buffoon is gracing the cover of the magazines near the checkout lines) but however self conscious or self obsessed you may be about your cankles, love handles, crooked nose, chicken wings, mole or other blemishes it is nothing compared to the amazingly body conscious, furry, companion you’ve got lying next to you.
Dogs do not have a spoken language like we do but that in no way means they do not have an amazingly complex language based in movement and energy. The movements of their body, their energy levels, and who is touching who and when, where, and how on their body a touch may or may not occur- all of these little details are actually words in dog speak or the canine way of communication.
A dogs intelligence is a masterful blend of ancient instincts mixed with empirical activity and social manipulation. They form habits after discovering what works for them. If your dog is out-touching you or over-touching you be it a lick, a mouth, a nip, jumping up, a bump, leaning on, stepping on, nosing you or any other touching I’ll tell you clearly you are being manipulated and dominated! Your dog thinks it is in charge of the routines and habits that run your life. And your dog is absolutely right in this thinking. He/she is dominating you even if it appears friendly or if the dog is desperately “in need” of comfort. (See our blog posts about Dealing with a Fearful dog and Introducing a Rescue dog)
This article should forever change how we view our dogs because, let me tell you, they can be more manipulative and socially brilliant than most people I see. A dog, through touch and social spacing, can have a human trained within a few short weeks. I see it every single day!
To safeguard children and yourself from dog bites be sure to truly observe how touch and social spacing are the number one top priority for determining leadership and developing habits of energy control in our dogs. Think like a dog. Get out of your distracted, human head and live in the moment for a second or three to see what your dog is doing and how they are talking. Are they speaking rudely? Are they dominant? Are they scared and threatening other people, kids, or dogs? Are they hyper and taking it out on you and your personal space or your guests? Are they constantly licking you or on your lap or hiding behind you? If you answered yes to any of these questions you need help and not just the typically lame sort of help that most behaviorists and trainers suggest because no amount of “sitting, downing, staying, or watch me” is going to help solve real behavioral manipulation and the social one-uping that your dog is exhibiting.
Now ask yourselves if you were so unaware about how important a dog’s sense of feeling and touch is and how important a dog’s physical body is when considering behavioral patterns and sociability how on earth would a child be privy to such information? Kids are bulls in a dog’s personal China shop because they will get right in a dog’s face. Kids will pull a dog’s ears. Kids will often smack a dog with any large item if they see the dog jump back and find that to be humorous. Kids will attempt to ride a dog or sit on them. Kids will drag a dog or pup around on leash. Kids will hug the heck out of a dog whether the dog is their calm and friendly, already desensitized, old, family dog or some new terrified and aggressive rescue dog that the neighbors just brought home…kids will treat almost every dog the same based on their former experiences.
Teach your kids to ask before touching. Teach your kids simple canine communication. Teach them silence can be a big warning. Teach your kids to be gentle and stay out of the dog’s face. Teach your kids never to corner or trap an animal.
For those adults who believe that dogs just snap one day and go crazy I’ve got news for you. Unless the dog is rabid nothing is further from the truth. Dogs never just go wild and give no warnings. There are always subtle warnings. In fact, usually there are warnings for months! This does not mean the dog will send you an email, text, or prepare a Power Point presentation to let you know they are feeling uncomfortable and are about to bite. The dog will not stand up like a human and speak out loud to you. It means YOU might need to take some time to learn to read and speak your dog’s language better since you were the one who decided to welcome a domesticated predator into your home.
If you currently have a puppy I suggest you start to manhandle and over-touch it how and whenever you want every single day. Please note, I did not say whenever the pup wanted or wherever they want to be touched on their body. Half of good, early, dog training is denying them the touch and attention they want when they want it to replace it with a more correct social touch or spacing that teaches calmness but doesn’t let the dog or pup manipulate us. Social grooming, touching and spacing is everything when communicating with an animal. This goes far, far beyond treating them for frivolous tricks. This goes much deeper into a real and social language instead of just “finding what motivates your dog” like the majority of trainers and behaviorists go on and on about.
Handling and touching of your puppy or dog will have several great benefits. It will prep them for vet and grooming visits. It will teach them not to claim any part of their body so that in the future they do not guard it. It will make you look more like the mother or father dog and establish a more real and meaningful relationship as opposed to just having the dog manipulate and use you. Handling your dog the right way will make the dog much more comfortable socially as it will learn the proper way to receive human attention and touching. Your learn kids are loud, climb on things, roll on the floor, move fast, and will sometimes get right in their face to give them a hug. Most importantly the dog will learn there are more options than just fight or flight! By touching your dog or pup correctly they will learn to access the appropriate social, calming signals.
Protect your kids and desensitize your puppy or dog to touching and you’ll be doing everyone a huge service. Need help? Give us a call!