The vast majority of children love dogs, especially puppies! At the same time, owing to their innocence and lack of physical development, children, especially infants, are prone to dog attacks. In fact, annual data from 2016 shows that 42% (13) of the fatality victims of dog attacks were children ages 9 years and younger. Moreover, among children ages 9-years and younger, male deaths comprised 62% of dog attack fatalities.
The following is a list of suggestions for how to limit the behavior of aggressive dogs when there are children or in your home:
- Early interaction between your dog and your child is crucial. The frequency of such interaction makes your dog more comfortable around children generally as opposed to when the dog encounters children later in its life.
- Make sure the dog knows that you are the “alpha” leader of the household, and that the dog will be separated from the family in the event it displays aggressive behavior towards your child, or other family members.
- Never let your child or infant play with your dog in an unsupervised setting, and keep the initial interactions short so that your dog becomes more comfortable around your child or infant over time.
- Explain to your child how to interact with dogs. Hugs with puppies or OK, but not with a mature, grown dog.
- Always have your dog approach your child. Your dog may misinterpret your child approaching it as a threat, and attack as a result.
- Limit interactions to a time when the dog’s energy level is low, as that low level of energy correlates to less aggression.
- If your dog does exhibit aggression, do NOT try to calm it with gentle pets, as doing so only rewards the dog’s aggressive behavior. Instead, immediately remove the dog from the area where your child is. That form of isolation should pay off over time.
One last item: if you are considering buying a puppy that is from the Doberman Pinscher, Rottweiler, Pitt Bull, Siberian Husky, or German Shepard breed, make sure you also get to see their parents, as their parents’ temperament will give you a good idea as to how the dog will evolve over time.
If you consistently follow these guidelines you should be able to tune out your dog’s aggressive behavior over time. This could be a lengthy process, but should result in your dog being comfortable not only around your child, but other children as well. If your dog does exhibit aggressive behavior even after all of these guidelines have been followed, you should contact a local dog trainer.
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