Really stupid question about dogs and children from novice dog owner

(17 Posts)
SockEatingMonster Tue 15-Jan-19 14:45:58

Hello lovely dog people.

We are hoping to adopt a rescue dog. We've been talking about it for nearly 2 years now, looking since Easter last year and looking in earnest for the last 2 weeks (2019 will be the year!) I have found lurking on the doghouse topic invaluable in both helping us to decide what sort of dog we could give a good home to and keeping me sane whilst we wait for the right dog to come along, so thank you.

Anyway, my stupid question is when can a dog be left alone with children? I know it has been answered on here before, but it's the specifics I am still unsure of. I mean, I know that child and dog do not need to be 1-2-1 chaperoned until the morning of the child's 18th birthday, but am less sure about where it is sensible to draw the lines.

DC are 8 and 10, plus we have DSS who is 15 and here approx. every other weekend. After the initial settling in period, I am assuming that, if both dog and children are happily engrossed in calm and separate activities it will be ok to leave them all as-is when I go to the loo or have a shower? Or should I be putting the dog and children in separate rooms? Also, I leave 10 yo DS home alone for up to around 20 minutes. Should I be taking DDog with me, or are they ok left home alone together? Separate rooms or free-ranging the house together? Again, I am referring to months down the line when DDog has fully settled and assuming there are no unwanted behaviours from either DDog or DS!

Moving onto much shakier ground, we have a small village shop. Outside the shop are 2 areas where dogs can be tied. I would never leave DDog alone, but would it be appropriate to leave 10 yo DS outside with the dog whilst I nipped into the shop for a loaf of bread? Or is it too much of a risk in case DDog gets into a fight with another dog, for example? I would have assumed no, but every Tom, Dick and Harry in our village seems to do this!

Finally, DSS is 15 and lives in a household with a dog who he walks daily. I am assuming it would be ok for him to walk our dog alone if he wants to, once we are confident that he has good control of course. I remember walking our family German Shepherd from about 14, but this was back in the 1980s so things may well have changed since then!

Thank you smile

OP’s posts: |
missbattenburg Tue 15-Jan-19 15:09:55

Honestly, this is a 'how long is a piece of string question', I'm afraid. So much will depend on the dog and the children involved.

For example - while all dogs are capable of aggression and causing damage, I might be more cautious about leaving a large, boisterous mastiff alone with a 10 year old child than I would be leaving a 4kg, toothless Chihuahua. The potential for harm, if I got it wrong, is so much less.

However, if:
- your dog is of a size that the child could physically restrain it - if needed
- the dog's temperament is such that it shows a predictable and reliable calmness around your children
- your children have demonstrated a clear understanding of how to behave around dogs
- your children have been involved in training the dog and showed they understand the principles of doing such
- your children are mature and calm, by nature

...then I would leave them alone while showing and peeing. I think I might be tempted to leave the dog behind a baby gate if I was leaving the house - at least the first few times.

Again, assuming the dog is of a size that your 15 yr old could restrain it then leaving him to hold the dog while you pop in the shop seems ok to me. You might want to have spoken about sensible ways to avoid dog fights and what to do if one breaks out - but they are not so common. Ditto for walking it.

The best thing you could do, I think, is enrol in dog training classes - even if they are for 'fun' things like agility basics - and involve the children. That way, they will get to learn how to handle the dog in the right way and the bond between them and dog with be strengthened. There are lots of other actives if agility doesn't suit you or your dog - e.g. scent-work, obedience, simple and fun recall classes.

SockEatingMonster Tue 15-Jan-19 16:09:41

Thank you @missbattenburg

It really is a how long is a piece of string question, but your reply is really helpful.

I’m hoping to find a small lap-sized dog, so hopefully easier to control from a physical point of view. Although I have known small dogs who are an exception to that rule!

OP’s posts: |
Aprilshowerswontbelong Tue 15-Jan-19 16:15:03

Ds 5 is left in an adjoining room with 2 of ours, ddogs seek him out to lie with . Teen dc take those ddogs out alone and manage. Bigger ddogs never alone with youngest more due to sheer size than anything. Had ddogs before ds and think that makes a difference. They aren't a 'novelty 'just part of the family.
Adult dc take bigger ddogs out due to size.
Would never leave one tied up outside a shop. The guilt if it was stolen would be too great!

tabulahrasa Tue 15-Jan-19 16:27:53

It really does just need to know the dog and the children and know whether they’re likely to stay doing whatever it is you leave them doing...

Outside the shop, again depends, is it likely that another dog will start a fight where the shop is, or another child is going to run up and shout on your dog’s face? (That second one happens more than you’d think)

SockEatingMonster Tue 15-Jan-19 17:03:19

I think, given we will be rescuing a dog with some history (good or bad) and given that we don't have a great deal of experience we will err on the side of extreme caution, at least initially anyway.

OP’s posts: |
Aprilshowerswontbelong Tue 15-Jan-19 17:18:16

Just to add we have had ddogs from very young. Also a deciding factor. Do not give your ddog too much responsibility for the safety of your dc is the best action imo.


nos123 Tue 15-Jan-19 17:19:17

I don’t think you need to worry about a 15 year old experienced dog owner...

As for the younger ones- it totally depends on the dog. I don’t see why you would adopt a dog that you wouldn’t trust alone in a room with an 8 and 10 year old. What exactly do you think is going to happen if the dog is settled and with good temperament?

tabulahrasa Tue 15-Jan-19 17:25:01

“ I don’t see why you would adopt a dog that you wouldn’t trust alone in a room with an 8 and 10 year old.”

The problem is it’s an unknown dog...

For instance the DC could suddenly start playfighting and it’s something the dog hasn’t had to deal with before, it could try and stop them, it could try and join in... there’s scope for something to happen that isn’t going to end well.

Or the dog could have a resource guarding issue that nobody has picked up on yet and decides to guard something in the room..

Actually the possibilities are kind of endless, that’s the point - hypothetical dogs and children can do loads of stuff, that’s why it just depends.

TheVanguardSix Tue 15-Jan-19 17:29:54

I think you’ll have to see what your dog’s personality is like. You’ll have to get to know your dog and have a good understanding of how its character has been shaped by its history.

I’m just wondering why you assume so much aggression will take place between dogs and kids/other dogs.

woollyheart Tue 15-Jan-19 17:35:39

You will often find that medium and larger dogs have been trained more. Small dogs often have less disciplined training because it is easy to just pick them up and stop them barking etc.

So, you might find that a well trained medium sized dog will be better and more patient with your children.

SanJelliChino Tue 15-Jan-19 17:52:57

We got our first rescue when our daughter was ten. I'm afraid he nipped all of us in the first year because he'd previously been abused and we didn't understand the (very subtle) signals he was sending us!

Suggest you buy "Calming Signals" by Turid Rugaas which explains "dog language" very well. Then explain them all to your DC.

It's important your DC learn that dogs don't like being hugged, having people lean over them, people looking them in the eye, loud noises, sudden movements, people touching their paws, pulling their tails, distracting them when they are eating etc.

(Don't get me wrong the dog in question is a truly gentle soul and hasn't given us a moment's worry for the subsequent five years we've had him, but he was very suspicious and reactive (understandably self protective) for about the first year or so until he trusted us, and we learnt to read him properly.)

So it's a good idea to try and prepare your DC in advance and for everyone to be very quiet and calm when he arrives and (counter-intuitively) try not to be too exuberantly overly affectionate when he first arrives, even though it will be very exciting for young DC! And do keep a careful eye on things until you have built up trust. Even then, a dog can be unpredictable in unusual situations, for example, when visiting dc come to play and are running around excitedly, so I recommend having a "safe place" where the dog can go to when it's feeling stressed or visiting DC are present.

SanJelliChino Tue 15-Jan-19 17:55:10

Btw, I hope my post hasn't put you off, a rescue centre in the UK will hopefully select a child friendly dog for you - we live in a country where that doesn't happen!

Good luck!

SockEatingMonster Tue 15-Jan-19 20:46:25

Thanks everyone for the excellent advice.

@SanJelliChino don't worry you've not put me off and I've downloaded a sample of Calming Signals to my kindle to read tonight. DD and I have already watched some dog behaviour videos on YouTube. You've reminded me to get them both to watch more. I'd be grateful for any recommendations. My old cat was quite unwell on and off for about 6 months before he died and they quickly got used to reading his signals, particularly DD actually who was only 6 at the time, so I am quietly hopeful they'll take to it well.

@woollyheart I'm afraid I rather have my heart set on a dog that will sit on my lap (without cutting off the circulation I mean, I am aware that most dogs are 'lap dogs' given half a chance!). I've had cats all my life up until 2 years ago and one of my greatest pleasures in life has always been to snuggle up, pet on lap, book in hand in the evenings. Of course that is not our main reason for getting a dog, but we don't plan to get another cat and this is my one concession to that. Time will tell if that turns out to be a good decision or not!

@TheVanguardSix I don't assume any aggression will take place, I didn't mean for my posts to come across that way. I grew up with dogs and we pet sit and are around dogs quite a lot and I have never witnessed any aggression one way or another. That said, our last cat had some quite serious health problems, so I am aware how animals can act out of character if they are in pain or unwell, and how we may not always notice they are in pain or unwell until they show us.

OP’s posts: |
tabulahrasa Tue 15-Jan-19 22:00:30

It’s just being sensible, like wearing a seat belt in case you’re in a car crash, it doesn’t mean you’re expecting one, but you’re prepared anyway.

SanJelliChino Tue 15-Jan-19 22:20:57

Op if you've grown up around dogs then you already know loads and it sounds from your posts that you are preparing really well!

I'm afraid I don't know of any good specific dog behaviour videos on You Tube but Zak George seems to be a good trainer!

Good luck with it all!

nellieellie Fri 18-Jan-19 14:41:51

We have a rescue dog. We’ve had her 3 years. I’d not think twice about leaving her with my children - they were 8 and 10 when we got her. But only once I felt I knew her and her responses, and that my DCs were sufficiently dog savvy - ie could be trusted NOT to touch her when she’s in her bed, when she’s asleep, not to hug her unless she asks. Not because she’d do anything but because it could make her anxious.

I have a non rescue who I’ve had from a pup, and to be honest, I feel more confidence in him because there aren’t any unknowns. My rescue was terrified and charged away from me when I put up a garden chair. She barked and skittered around a tall man in a Stetson (!) carrying a cane. I don’t know her triggers. When a toddler unexpectedly went to stroke her while out on a walk, I intervened, because I saw by her slightly frozen stance, she was nervous ( many dogs who love children are nervy around toddlers) and a nervy dog can snap.

You have to use your judgement, erring on the side of caution. I second posters recommendations for dog communication books. Lip licking, turning away, yawning, whale eye (when dog moves head, but eyes remained fixed) are all signs of anxiety. Time and time again, you see dogs doing these signals as children enthusiastically hug them, sit on them or squash onto their beds.

Good luck with your rescue.

Same for children. Some will be good with dogs, respecting boundaries. Some won’t. My daughter has at least one friend I would never even leave in a room on her own with my rescue. Her other friends are OK though.

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