Child and a dog – risks and benefits

child and a dog raising children with dogs
It’s my pile of dirt! Find your own human pup!

Two of my children get along better and better. Playing together becomes more and more fun. This child and a dog seem to love each other more every day. The level of Gabi’s squeak varies, depending on who enters the room. It presents as follows: me (dad) < grandfather (my dad) < Borys (our dog). Since Gabi started to eat solid foods, when she turned 6 months, Borys fell in love with our daughter. Perfect image.

Borys is beautiful, funny and very sweet. He is our beloved first child and a family member. But this is not an idyll. He is a very heavy experienced dog from a shelter. He was abused and after that, he was alone for almost two years. We worked hard for half a year to build a bond with him. He has a strong pack instinct. He does not like strangers. Many things induce his panic attacks (eg. light reflexes or bright light, sudden noise, somebody trying to walk towards him). He treats Gabriele as a puppy, but it is important that he knows that this child is a part of our pack. He is very patient and caring towards her, but he is aware that she can suddenly hit him in the nose when she gets too excited. Gabi loves ours and other dogs. I think she grows better thanks to Borys.

Does a child develop better with a dog?

Is it good to have a dog with a child? Research shows that the positive effect of having a dog on a child is clearly visible for 10-15 yo children. They learn better, are more self-confident, less susceptible to depression and social disorders [I recommend reading a very interesting article, link]. And what about such an annual baby? The effect on the immune system is quite clear. Newborns with dogs at home rarely have problems with allergies, atopy or eczema [link]. It is also very interesting that having a furry animal changes the microbiota of a child’s gut in a beneficial way, protecting it against atopy (another evidence, another test) and even obesity [link]. My wife is a big fan of sensory stimulation and a dog provides tons of stimuli to the child, improving its development.

Now I know that my childhood lacked a dog severely. Never had one and now I see how much I lost. I want my children to know how great a bond with such a friend is.

Can a dog be dangerous to a child?

Of course, we can not be sure how an animal will react to a child. Knowing how distrustful, territorial and unpredictable is Borys we always have to control the situation. Until Gabi started to move, we were calm. Now she often goes to the dog herself and pets him squeaking. Borys is a great older brother and is very patient. I know that there may come a moment that he will stop thinking of her as a puppy and treat her as a full member of the herd. This will be a dangerous moment because this white-red hairy calf will try to show its superiority in the hierarchy. He may also be tired and do not want to play, and the child may not understand it. Then it can be dangerous and our intervention will be necessary.

What to do to let a child develop a dog?

I am not a behaviourist, I have been trying to understand dogs only for a short time (3 years). Our dog is an extreme case but it was our choice. We will try to do everything as consciously as possible.

We decided first on the dog, then on the child. When my wife was pregnant, nothing had changed. Borys was not put aside. He is a domestic dog, with all the luggage of this fact (his hair are EVERYWHERE!!!). He was and is our beloved friend. The same after Gabriele’s birth.

Child and a dog – the beginnings

Borys has never been isolated from our daughter. As soon as I brought her home, Borys was allowed to greet her, know her smell. He sniffed her thoroughly and with curiosity. I like to believe that he recognized that she is our child at a glance :).

He has never been chased away from a child, we have not forbidden him to enter the room where Gabi is. He could lie down beside her on the bed where he sleeps. We allowed him to lick Gabi’s feet (that is a great stimulus to an infant). Often, when Gabi was lying on our knees we petted him. Gabrysia was never a competitor and a threat to him. We put a lot of effort so Borys associated Gabi with pure happiness (eg.  joint walks are great). I think it is important.

When she began to move and eat their relationships went to the next level. Eating Gabrysia became the centre of the universe for our dog since she consciously feeds his bites 😉 the dog does not complain, which can be seen by its weight; D

My advice

It’s up to you whether you let a shaggy creature into your life. This decision should not be caused by fashion, whims, child’s insistence or momentary whim. This living creature sees you as a family, a herd and trusts that he will stay with you. Before a dog enters the family, you need to prepare properly. You need some time to build a relationship and relations in the herd. Yes, a dog also needs this time, but be sure that once you gain his trust and love, it will be one of the deepest feelings that anyone offered to you and your child 😉

Is there a four-legged creature running after your home? Maybe you have some other pet than a dog in stock? Cat, hamster, turtle, or maybe rats? 😉 (we had a hamster, gerbils and rats). What are your thoughts on animals and children? Do you have any advice for the time when Gabi starts to “love” Borys too much?

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