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Dogs and child Highs and lows

The relationship between children and  dogs  can be very complex, and what seems to be straight forward cruelty, and an  uncaring and cold blooded disregard for the welfare of a vulnerable creature,can often be misinterpreted by an adult.

Children are inquisitive, they are learning  about life from scratch, and often do things just to see what reaction they  get, or simply to see what happens "If I do this”.

Dogs’ eyes attract children like a magnet,they shine and move, and the child invariably wants to touch, poke, or try to  remove them. Ears are  soft and squidgy and feel lovely to a small hand, feet   jump when they are touched, and this seems to be a brilliant game. Dogs are  soft and warm, so make a very comfortable bed, and children climb all over them  to get comfortable. A large dog cries out to be climbed on and ridden like a  horse in a child’s mind. None of these interactions are acceptable and if  unchecked are extremely stressful to the dog, but the child means no harm at  all.

These things can be discouraged, and  stopped immediately if they do happen, if the adult has the sense to never leave  toddler and dog unsupervised, and the toddler gradually is made to realise that   this interaction receives zero tolerance – and thus grows into a child who  understands and treats their dog as it should be treated.

If only it was that simple!

I well remember being so unhappy that  however much attention and caring I gave the family dogs, they always preferred  my Mum’s company, and did as she asked without question, where as they never  showed the same attachment or attention to me. Of course I now know that my mum  was the one they respected and trusted, and I was just another puppy to them,great to play with, but not one they looked to for guidance – in fact I  probably bugged the life out of them with my constant efforts to make them love  me, so they blanked much of my attempted interaction (I WAS very young then!).

With some children it gets a bit darker.

One of my daughter’s friends (in adulthood)once told me that she felt huge guilt because when she   was a young child her  mother’s dog had puppies and she sometimes squeezed them to make them squeak.Was this a cruel child? Actually quite the opposite. She wanted them to love  her, and by hurting them she could then give all the nurturing attention shewas longing to give, but they did not seem to want or need.

That brings me to power.

A child HAS no power. Every aspect of their  life is pretty much dictated by adults, and suddenly there is this creaturethat has to do as they say - and many children have very underdeveloped moral   brakes at this stage in their life. Very unpleasant to consider, but  understandable?

Then of course the child who is being  bullied, or has abusive parents or siblings. All that hurt and anger inside and  powerless to vent it – except on a creature which cannot argue or hit back.

I am not for one second condoning any kind  of inappropriate treatment of animals by children – my grandchildren know that  their loving nanny can turn into a cold and unyielding tyrant if they ever   treat her dogs in any way but kindly and respectfully – but I think understanding  why children treat dogs in a seemingly cruel way, and patient and continuous  education to really get them to understand a better way, is the key to moulding  a child into a great adult carer, not condemnation. If you address cruelty with  reciprocal cruelty, then what do expect you will achieve?


Lesley Harris



APRIL 20TH, 2018 @ 15:16:32 BST


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