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A girl being licked by a dogOur dog is the sweetest, most harmless creature anyone could imagine. We often joke that if a burglar was to break in, she would lick him to death. She never fought with another dog (or even a cat) in her life and I trusted her completely around my little Eric. But one day she growled at him and if I wasn’t there to take him away the next second she would have snapped at him.

I read all the horror stories in the newspapers about dogs nearly killing little children and thought that

a. Something was seriously wrong with the dogs or their owners and
b. It would never happen to me.

If you have a pet, you have probably felt the same. And now I can tell from my own experience – that false sense of security can get us in trouble.

I wasn’t paying too much attention when Eric was playing rough with the dog, of course I would tell him off but it wasn’t on top of my priorities – and it should have been. That day opened my eyes and I started to teach Eric to respect the dog – and the dog to respect my boy.

Here are the rules I had to start to enforce for the sake of my son’s safety and my dog’s sanity:

Play under supervision only.
If I can’t watch the kid and the dog every single second, they are not allowed to play, which brings me to the next rule –

Childproof the dog
If the kid is in the house, then I let the dog outside, and if my son and I go outside, then I let the dog into the house.

Teach the kid that the dog is not a toy.
I tell my son that toys can be thrown or stepped on, but doggies can not, because it hearts them and they cry. And because telling him what to do works so much better than telling him what not to do, I show how to pet the dog nicely and how to stroke her fur gently. Not only do I pet the dog myself, I take his little hand and touch and stroke the dog gently so that he knows what that feels like.

Every time he hits the dog, he has to say sorry and make up (by giving the dog a treat). I don’t want the dog to associate my son with pain, so I hope this will help her expect nice things from him too.

Never allow the kid to interrupt when the dog is eating.
I feed the dog in the backyard and keep the child indoors until she’s finished eating. I also explain to Eric that doggies don’t like to be disturbed when eating and they get angry when little kids push them away from the food. It is really hard to understand whether or not he gets it but I just hope that if I keep doing that, he will learn and remember.

Doggie needs to learn some respect too.
I never turn the blind eye when the dog snaps at the kid. Every time she growls at him or shows teeth, she gets told off. Hopefully she’ll learn that this kind of behavior is not tolerated.

I am also going to explain to Eric what it means when the dog has its hair standing and its ears back, when it is showing teeth, barking or growling; that he needs to get away from the dog that very second. I choose to wait because being 15 months old he probably won’t understand, but he definitely needs to be taught that later.

Did you have similar problems with your kids and pets? What was your solution? Did it help?