Friday, 19 September 2014

Kids and Dogs

When I got Daisy at 14 weeks I had lots of plans for puppy socialising that involved taking her to meet lots of people, going for walks on busy streets so she could learn what buses were, making sure she met lots of older dogs and so on. One area that I did not think specifically about was making sure she met kids - I don't have children myself, and so don't really interact with them very much. She met plenty of tweens and older, not least because random passers by wanted to play with the puppy but wasn't really exposed to anyone under the age of about 12. Fortunately, it turned out ok, and the very first time she did meet a five year old, she instantly identified a playmate and the pair of them ran around like idiots under the watchful eye of the child's mother and me. Later on, she met my friend's toddler, again under very close supervision, and seemed to know instinctively to be very quiet and calm around him (though she did give him lots of kisses, which he seemed remarkably nonplussed by).

Cybi is a different matter. He came to me at 7 months old, by which time he was already a decent size. He's pretty boisterous, and not jumping up is still a work in progress - and he was born in a very quiet and rural area (he's a failed sheepdog). I can only assume he had never met children before he arrived with me, but we live near a school and there have been a couple of occasions now where kids walking home have invaded his personal space while we've been out. We're working on it, as obviously it isn't a good thing that he feels threatened by young children (and he's so silly that if he realised they were fun to be around he could have an ace time playing with them) but I've been a little bit surprised by the attitudes of both parents and older kids (which I assume comes from the parents) around dogs they don't know. Maybe it's the default assumption that all dogs are friendly, but there have been times when I have actually had to put myself in the way, and explain to a parent that their child should not continue to approach my dog while he is retreating behind my legs and even starting to growl. Most of them have been ok with it, if a little surprised (and I always feel very rude saying "no, I'm sorry your child can't stroke my dog") but the odd one has suggested that it's in some way my fault that I need to fend off their small child because my dog isn't totally kid safe. And it's always the ones who come rushing in arms outstretched and looming over the dog, generally while making some kind of a loud noise, that have the parents who take it personally that I'd prefer my dog stayed away from their child! Sigh.

Anyway, the RSPCA has recently started an education campaign aimed at parents, to try to decrease the risk to children. It's not quite the same as my situation, in that it's primarily aimed at people who have both kids and dogs, but I can't help but feel that if it was circulated widely it might help my cause with Cybi while I continue to work on him.

RSPCA dogs and children infographic
Dogs and children - an infographic created by the RSPCA

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