Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How 'Tolerant' Should A Dog Have To Be?

When people share with me that their dog is the most tolerant--submissive dog on the planet, I have to ask, what exactly is your dog having to tolerate?   Why do we expect dogs to tolerate everything that comes their way?  This is especially true of dogs that live with children.  Many parents believe that the family dog needs to be tolerant of anything the kids dole out.   A family dog is often expected to accept kids grabbing them, climbing on them, pulling ears and tails, teasing them, tackling them and they should never so much as flinch, much less show displeasure or fear. 

Instead of expecting the dog to be tolerant, we need to teach children boundaries with dogs.  I'm speaking from experience, as the mother of 3, I know how important it is to teach kids and even adults appropriate boundaries with the family dog.  Young children need 100% adult supervision around puppies and dogs, especially kids who are too young to understand boundaries.   I've had many conversations with my kids over the years about appropriate ways of handling and interacting with our dogs.  Not every dog wants to be a pillow, wants hugs and kisses, enjoys cuddling, likes to wrestle, loves being chased and grabbed.   There are many times when the family dog is treated more like a stuffed animal than a living creature.    When a dog shows displeasure it could be that they are experiencing pain, are fearful, feel trapped or anxious or quite simply would just like to be left alone.  There is so much pressure on the family dog to always be 'up' and 'happy', who else could live up to that expectation?    If a dog is being forced to endure something unpleasant, they are not being tolerant or submissive, we need to know the difference to keep everyone safe. 

The following video shows the difference between a dog that enjoys being petted and one that does not.  

There are great resources available such as videos and posters to teach kids how to properly interact with dogs. 

The truth is...........not all dogs are good with kids..................and not all kids are good with dogs.   Instead of thinking tolerance is the answer................use training, management, supervision and education to keep everyone safe and happy.