Ask a Terrier: Dogs and Children – When Species Collide
Do you get along with kids? My toddler is infatuated with dogs. She won’t go anywhere without her toy “Fooby”. But somehow she’s detached both of Fooby’s ears and split a seam where he once had a tail. Could that behavior be a problem someday? How can I prepare her for a world full of canines?
With thread in hand, Jan W.
Dear Jan W.,
Just so we’re all on the same page, Fooby’s a stuffed dog, right? And he’s always been stuffed?
If so, it’s not too late for your toddler to be rehabilitated.
Although unavoidable, mixing dogs and little Giants can be tricky. As Fooby learned to his sorrow, little Giants view dogs as a collection of removable parts in a Fisher-Price “My First Mammal” play set. Meanwhile, dogs appreciate little Giants as a renewable source of crumbs and spills. Such misunderstandings usually result in a child receiving a time out and a dog being wrapped in thick canvas restraints, then shoved into an unmarked van.
Of course, children need to be taught how to behave properly around dogs. But far be it from me to lecture Giants, since they greatly outweigh me and are the source of my food supply.
Instead, let me offer advice to my many canine readers…well, not readers exactly… about how to interact safely with little Giants so that they have a positive experience and you avoid being shoved into an unmarked van.
1. Children are like puppies, only with access to lawyers.
When two Giants meet, they exchange business cards. When two dogs meet, they sniff behinds. A successful child-and-dog encounter will incorporate both, thus:
CANINE: “Why, hello, little Giant! Are you from the shelter?”
LITTLE GIANT: “Ak-Gooo! Ak-Gooo!”
CANINE: “Sorry, don’t know that command. Are you saying, ‘My hands are coated up to the shoulders in peanut butter’? If that is the case, please let me render assistance.”
LITTLE GIANT: “Ek-Ek AK-GOOO!”
CANINE: “If by that you mean you’re seeking a trash receptacle with the goal of ridding yourself of that indescribable smelly mass gripped between your fingers, please again allow me to alleviate that burden.”
LITTLE GIANT: “Blaaarf!”
CANINE: “Oh, I’ll clean that up! A pleasure doing business with you!”
2. Pay attention to body language, Nature’s Instagram.
Pulling ears, twisting tails, and poking eyes are activities common among young children and the Trump administration. When encountering little Giants, carefully read their body language to know their intentions. Likewise read the body language of Giant Parents, especially when they’re screaming that they hate you.
Warning phrases include:
“Is that goddamn dog here?”
“I sleep with a loaded .38. Soooo…”
“Did you lock up that goddamn dog?”
“Why even have a dog? Shouldn’t you have children by now?”
“Kill that goddamn dog!”
“What’s that awful smell?”
“…and they never found the body. Fact!”
3. Even us goddamn dogs need a little space.
Despite being slow on four feet, unsteady on two, and encumbered by too many probing fingers, little Giants can be great fun. Like us, they appreciate poop, own great squeaky toys, and howl for no apparent reason.
However, unlike us – and I know this sounds crazy – they don’t live to nap.
Why would any animal – even a Giant – not want to nap? I’ve taken three naps just writing this column. To maintain peak performance, a dog needs to nap at least 24 hours a day.
Not so with little Giants. They shun their bed to run all morning in the park like squirrels (NOTE: They are not squirrels!), spend the afternoon digging holes in the garden like chipmunks (IMPORTANT! See previous note), then splash in the bath like fish (OK, fish are pretty safe). Yet they still have enough energy to roll Thomas the Train over your tail and up your back while you’re napping.
Brrrr! That Thomas the Train really creeps me out! What’s with the eyes?
Where then, dog readers, is it safe to nap away from a little Giant intent on playing Alien Autopsy on you? Obviously, it’s wherever they’re supposed to take a nap – their bed, or crib, or crate. Just curl up there. They’ll never find you.
But if they do, stay calm, rest your head on their lap, and give them the sad Thomas the Train eyes. The child will be captivated, Giant Parents will be charmed, and you’ll avoid being wrapped in canvas and shoved in a van.
Everyone’s a winner!