Dogs and Children
Next month we plan a visit with my brother and his wife -- and their new German shepherd. The dog is full grown and supposedly fully trained. Even so, I worry about how our two-year-old son and the dog will get along. Danny, our son, has never been around a dog, particularly a large one. I don't believe the dog has been around children, particularly an exuberant two-year-old. Am I worrying needlessly? Do you have any advice on how to handle this situation?
I hope I can calm your worries --- in this case, forethought of the situation is very important. Children under three, especially boys, are prime candidates for dog bites. They have poor motor coordination and wobble and sway when they walk. Chances are good that they will be fascinated with a dog and want to "play" with it. Whether they are chasing after it or just careening through the house, they easily can fall or step on the dog. The dog may respond by turning on the toddler. If it is an aggressive dog, it may need no more provocation than the normal rambunctious action of the child. Most dog bites, incidentally come from a family pet or an animal owned by a relative or neighbor. If Danny were older, you could teach him how to behave around dogs. In fact, every child should learn that if attacked by a dog: Be a tree or lie like a log, Don't scream, Don't run, Resist eye contact, Wait for an adult to come help you, Stay away from strange dogs and don't bother them. Large breed dogs, such as German shepherds, Rottweilers and pit bulls, can be particularly dangerous because of their size and strength, especially if they have an aggressive temperament. Be aware that problem behavior varies from dog to dog. Smaller dogs can be aggressive too, but their bites may not be as damaging. To answer your question more directly, I recommend that you keep Danny away from his uncle's dog until the attitude of the dog toward the child can be determined. You should discuss the situation with your brother and, between you, decide how to introduce and monitor the actions of the boy and the dog.