It’s hard to deny the cuteness of children and dogs playing together, but it’s vital to ensure their safety as well.
One of the most important things any parent can learn about dogs is how to read their behavior.
While growling, biting, and snapping are obvious signs that a dog is uncomfortable around a child, there are many more subtle signals that can be just as telling.
For example, if you see your dog lick its lips or yawn during interactions with your child, it may be indicating stress. These signals can be easy to miss if you’re not actively looking for them.
Pay attention to small signs like lip-licking which may occur during child/dog interactions such as hugs, kisses or unintentional bumps, yawning which is commonly mistaken for fatigue but actually indicates discomfort, avoidance behaviors and the fancy-named whale eye, which is when a dog turns away from a child, but with tense body language still stares back at them, revealing a significant portion of the whites of their eyes.
Another sign of discomfort is avoidance behavior. If your dog is trying to walk or turn away from your child repeatedly, it’s best to give it space and redirect your toddler to another activity. If your child is particularly persistent, you may need to separate them physically.
If a dog’s temperament isn’t matched to a home with small children, it can be a recipe for disaster. That’s why it’s so important to take a dog’s temperament into account when selecting a pet for your family. You want a dog that can handle the inevitable chaos and noise that comes with having kids around. So when you adopt a dog, or even if you’re just selecting a breed, do your research and talk to an expert to make sure you’re making the best choice for everyone involved.
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