It’s common to see greeting cards featuring dogs and small children, but this is not the case if your dog doesn’t like them. If your dog reacts to children in a negative way, this can make you feel embarrassed and, depending on how intense the reaction is, can even be dangerous.
Colleen Pelar is the author of “Living With Kids and Dogs… without Losing Your Mind” and she points out that “good” does not mean “fine” when it comes to children. Tolerating children’s interactions can quickly turn into aggression if the dog is forced beyond its comfort zone.
As a pet owner of a dog who doesn’t care for children, you must be aware and alert to ensure the safety of all involved parties until you can pursue training that will change their dog’s attitude towards them.
There are many reasons why your dog might not like children.
Do you find that your dog avoids the younger crowds? It could be because:
- Lack of socialization If your dog did not have a positive experience with kids during his puppy socialization, he may find them frightening or overwhelming. It is important to introduce pups at a slow pace to different sights, sounds, and sensations. This helps them build confidence and decrease fear.
- Traumatic incident. Maybe your dog has experienced a number of uncomfortable dress-up sessions, and he now associates small people with discomfort. Even activities that seem innocent, such as allowing children to repeatedly remove a dog’s bone or climb up on it, are stressful to dogs.
- Unpredictable Behavior Children can yell and run. They may also tug and hug. This type of behavior is too stimulating for certain dogs. Pelar says that not everyone is a fan of others. She says that there will always be people who your dog won’t get along with. Children can be the most unpredictable thing we fear.
How Does Stress in Children Look?
Canine discomfort doesn’t always manifest as a snarl or a bark. If your dog is exhibiting these types of behaviors around children or adults, you should consult a veterinarian or trainer.
The initial fear and stress reactions of a dog can be subtle, so you may not notice them unless actively searching for them. This is the reason people often claim that a dog has “snapped” without warning.
Pet parents must be able to pick up the signals to act as their dog’s advocate and translator.
If a dog is uncomfortable around children, he may walk away or hide if they get too near. Children are often unable to tell when a dog is not interested in meeting them and will pursue the animal anyway.
If a dog is worried about kids, he may keep his ears pressed against his head and his tail in a tucked position. The dog may shake as if wet or lick the lips and mouth repeatedly as if tasting air, or yawn or growl.
When dogs use aggressive behaviors to protect themselves from children like growling or barking, they are expressing their feelings. These demonstrative dogs are likely to have cycled through subtler “please keep away” behavior and then heightened their display to maintain distance.
How to avoid a dog’s discomfort
Ignoring your dog’s distaste for children will not make the problem go away. When dealing with reactive behavior, it’s always a dangerous proposition. But this is especially true when you are dealing with kids. Your dog will not “grow” out of its discomfort when around children. If left untreated, it could get worse.
In the same way, forcing your dog to “face their fears” may backfire. Pelar advises you to avoid putting your pet in situations where they can’t escape when they’re worried. For example, holding him so a child could pet him. Your dog will not enjoy children if you force him to be near them. If he is forced to do so, he may escalate the warnings.
First Steps If Your Dog Doesn’t Like Kids
You should remove your dog if you see him displaying signs of discomfort in a situation with children. Keep children away from your dog and maintain a safe buffer around them in public.
As you begin basic training, your dog will start to see kids differently. Make a connection with them by giving them treats. Give your dog high-value treats whenever he sees a child at a distance.
Stop giving treats once the child has left. Over time, you will notice that your dog is looking to you for the treats when he sees children. This means that over time he has started to link something that normally makes him uncomfortable, (kids), with something good (treats).
Safety first for dogs and children
It’s a huge job to make your dog more confident around kids. If you’re concerned about the intensity of your dog’s reactions, the safest route is working with a positive-reinforcement dog trainer who can create a step-by-step training protocol that will help your dog learn to see the fun in little ones.