It’s funny how you can never quite tell how any one individual dog will react towards children. Yesterday we had company over, and they brought three year old Riley along with them. My older dogs are all completely kid proof, having been raised in a household full of children of all ages. The younger dogs regularly encounter kids out in public, and at the dog parks, but this isn’t quite the same thing as dealing with them at home, on their own turf.
Ellie is one of our most quiet Frenchies. She’s great with other dogs, but rather standoffish with people. She doesn’t dislike people – she just usually prefers to be left alone. If she wants you to pet her, she’ll let you know, otherwise she avoids being touched by people she doesn’t know, or isn’t comfortable with. We assumed she’d be fine with Riley, and that she’d likely just ignore him. Wrong! Ellie was completely floored by the sight of this small person wandering around her house. She reacted with sheer disbelief and shock – “Who the hell are you, and what are you doing in my house?”. She jumped straight in the air, yowled like a cat, and raised a ridge of fur across her back. She then spent the rest of the day hiding when he came near her, and shrieking in alarm whenever Riley moved. It was unbelievable – our calm little dog, terrified of a small child! Well, we knew she was never going to be a candidate for therapy work. Luckily for us, she wasn’t at all aggressive towards Riley – she just found him rather alarming. By the end of the day, she’d calmed down enough to let him touch her briefly, although she’d quickly scamper off to a safe distance after each pat.
Tessa, of course, is an old hand with kids. Years of having her ‘own’ kids, combined with years of doing therapy work, have combined to make her pretty bomb proof around even more rambunctious children. Of course, we still follow the golden rule – no dogs and children unsupervised – but Riley is good with dogs, and Tessa adores having anyone who’ll pet her and give her hugs, so it was a win win situation. It was also fun explaining to Riley just why, exactly, dogs require six nipples when people only need two. Later, they shared a nap on Tessa’s dog bed in a sunny patch on the floor.
Penelope is going through a rather shy stage at the moment. She could take Riley in small doses, but when the play got too rowdy she preferred to hide out under my feet. I think it’s essential to allow puppies to approach things in their own time, so while I didn’t encourage her fearfulness, I also didn’t force her to interact more. Eventually, she grew more used to him, and engaged in a vigorous game of ‘Lick your face!’. She even brought him one of her favorite water bottles – a true sign of favoritism.
Walking Riley and the dogs along the path behind our house was a valuable lesson in why Frenchies and small kids aren’t always the best fit. Riley likes to run, and Frenchies are notoriously clumsy about staying out from underneath your feet. More than once, Riley tumbled head over heels because Tula had wound herself around his ankles like a cat. Luckily for us, three year olds seem to bounce. He also took a few tumbles because Journey jumped up on him to give him kisses. Frenchies are friendly, but can be too overly enthusiastic for very small kids. An over anxious parent would have made this situation much worse, but Riley’s mom and grandparents are calm and dog experienced, so Riley soon learned to firmly tell Journey ‘Down!’ when she jumped up, instead of reacting with fright. It was funny to see how attentive Journey was to Riley. On our walk back home, the other dogs and I walked ahead, and Riley tried to run ahead and join us. Journey, in her best Border Collie imitation, cut him off and herded him back with the rest of the adults. For the rest of the walk, she kept herself between him and the path, gently herding him backwards when he tried to run too far ahead.
As I said, it’s always an adventure to see how the dogs do when they encounter new situations.