Proudie and Oliver, 2010
So, we have a dog. I know I don’t talk about her much on this blog, but she is there, a part of our family, through thick and thin, and despite what Andrew may tell you, I do love her. Proudie has been living with Andrew longer than I have, a fact he reminds me of often (especially when I get cheeky with her- which is often, these days). And at the ripe old age of 10, Proudie shows no signs of aging other than some pretty stinky dog breath. In fact, the vet recently broke the following news after an extensive doggy physical: “She may live another 10 years!”
And though this post is dedicated to Proudie, it is really more about dogs and kids in general. Recently, I read a post at my friend’s dog blog about the “Kiss-Off”- a basic form of doggie communication which dog owners often misinterpret (which basically says that doggie “kisses” are often the dog’s attempt to get us to back off). If you have a dog, or kids, or a dog and kids, or know someone with any combination of the former, please read this and pass it on. You might help avoid a bite or worse.
I grew up with a cat and Andrew grew up with a string of pets (don’t ask me why so many of his pets experienced such ill fates), so I am a firm believer that having pets is good for kids. I think there is the opportunity for learning empathy, responsibility, compassion, and shared love.
Proudie and Milo, 2007
But I look back at the past 5 years with Proudie, and I see some obvious differences with the way we have included her with each of our three boys. Obviously from the pictures above, we were extremely trusting (maybe too much?) with Proudie and Milo as a newborn. Proudie always seeks out a warm body to snuggle up with… but it did make us uneasy that she might snuggle someone’s face a little too lovingly and accidentally suffocate our spawn. So, despite what the pictures might suggest, we did not let our dog and baby co-sleep.
And the above picture of Milo “playing” with Proudie’s dinner is not so cute when you think about most dogs’ territorial reactions to the threat of a lost meal. She has never been very territorial, but just in case, we do not let our kids play with the dog’s food. Or go anywhere near it other than to fill up the bowl for her.
And this. Sigh. Cute, innocent enough picture, right? Or… is Proudie telling us with her body language “please give me a little space?” It’s subtle, but it’s there. I am not an expert on dog body language and communication. But I certainly think it is our responsibility, as parents and dog-owners, to inform ourselves of a dog’s “Seven Common Stress Signals” so that we can look out for potential problems. Also, I think it extremely important to teach our children these signals, along with some sage advice about approaching strange dogs. If you teach your child one thing about other people’s dogs, please let it be this: “Don’t Close the Gap”
I write this post not out of fear or worry. I have (luckily) never had a negative experience with Proudie and the kids, or with a strange dog. But I strongly believe that being uninformed about this is a recipe for disaster. So please read up and pass this on to parents with young kids and other dog owners! And a big thank you to Susan over at Central Ohio Dog Blog for all of the helpful information about dogs and kids, and about dogs in general!
Do you have a dog? If so, how do you handle kids and the inevitable ear-grabbing attempts from curious babies? Have you had any luck teaching your kids about strange dogs? What are your rules about approaching neighborhood dogs? Would love to hear your thoughts. Have a great day!