Over the past few months many photos and videos have come shown up on social media around the world where children are handing on or playing on their dogs, playing with or near their food while the dog is eating, or any number of other things. These photos and videos might appear cute and they even could show you that your dog is well-trained, obedient, and so kind. That is not the case however. In many occasions the dogs in these photographs are showing stress signals, are visible agitated, and could even be reaching a point of no return if pushed too hard. Even when they are not, these photos and videos are unintentionally showing people and children that doing these things is okay and that a dog should tolerate what we do to them regardless of the situation.
Most dog bites are from dogs which the people know, whether it is their own dog or a friends dog. That person then hears “He’s never done that before” or “I can’t believe he did that.” Rarely does the owner ask, or does the person think, “what were you doing to possibly instigate this?” That should be the question though, and that is why you should never leave a child and a dog unsupervised with one another, regardless of how well-behaved either is. What might seem like nothing to the child or person, such as petting on the head and ears or leaning over the dog, could be very scary and stressful to the animal.
This is also why knowledge of stress signals and signs is very important for everyone to know, and why children in addition to being supervised should be instructed on what is and isn’t appropriate. Don’t hesitate to tell your guests that your dog is sensitive about his hips and tail but loves to be scratched under his chin, or that when he goes to lay on his mat or bed that means he wants to be left along. Give your guests guidelines on what is and isn’t okay. This is your pet and your family.