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A child and a dog. An image that immediately inspires tenderness and protection, trust and serenity. Yet the dog - child relationship it is complex and not at all obvious. Mistakes are often made due to lack of knowledge or superficiality and the results can be serious. So what is the best way to encourage a furry life partner to enter the family? What are the most common mistakes? Are there "dangerous" dog breeds?
To answer these questions and more Angelo Vaira, one of the most influential personalities of Italian dog lovers of the last fifteen years. Born in Bari in 1975, founder of the Cognitive-Relational approach and the Cognitive-Zoonatropological School of Pet Training, Angelo Vaira is a dog relationship coach, writer, trainer and media personality.
Is it good for children to live with a dog?
It does very well: from a physical point of view, because they develop a stronger immune system and are less likely to contract allergies when they are adults and in general because the whole physical system seems to work better. The other implication is the psychological one, because relating to a world that is a little further away than that of human beings but with complex and articulated emotions and cognitions, which accepts you unconditionally like the canine one, creates a training ground for life. particularly suitable for the growth of a child.
Child who then develops better emotional intelligence. Research was carried out in the United States on university students who had lived with cats and dogs at home and it was found that they have a more marked social intelligence than their peers who did not have the same experience.
What is the best way to introduce an animal into the house and what are the most frequent mistakes in the dog-child relationship?
The best way is to teach the child as soon as possible to invite the animal to do something rather than go to him and touch him in an intrusive way. The most common mistake, mainly made by fathers, is to believe that the dog should not allow himself to say no to the child and that the child can do everything.
The "little men" are instead looking for boundaries, it is also seen in the relationship with adults: if we are too permissive, too "soft" then they get to kick us in the shins, metaphorically and also materially! It's the same with dogs, so if a dad goes to the dog and scolds him because he doesn't want to do anything with the child, like putting his hands in his face, pulling his tail, etc., then he will teach his son to abuse, to use violence. Then the child will not question how the other feels, we will weaken his empathic abilities. It is important that the child is told: "See, now Bobby has no desire, this is not the time" or "You see, you pulled his tail and he was angry". In short, warn him that if he continues like this sooner or later the bite will escape, therefore also for a safety issue, but above all so that the minor understands and asks himself what his furry friend is thinking at that moment, how he feels, what they are his intentions.
The basic rule is: invite the dog, wait for him to come to you. Suppose there is a shy or elderly dog: education is to understand that Lucky is old and struggles to get up. From these questions, a dog-child relationship is born that makes them grow.
Angelo Varia coach of the relationship with the dog
Sometimes the chronicles report children bitten or even killed by dogs. Why does it happen?
Normally it always has the same formula: it is not a dog that lives at home. The child and the animal have not spent time getting to know each other, understanding the micro-expressions, the invasions of spaces. Usually it is the dog of the uncle or the neighbor, an animal that lives in the garden, which has not established with the child the understanding, familiarity and intimacy that then allows the child to do things with him. A dog living in a playpen and an unsupervised child: this is a sometimes fatal combination.
Always remember the three Ss: supervision, supervision, supervision. Never, never leave a child alone with a dog: this for the minor but more often for the animal. However, speaking of news featuring dogs and humans, the media too often contravenes deontology to cause shock, as in the recent case of the dog educator who died of an illness instead of from the bull terrier's bites. This creates very strong damage, because in people's minds there will remain the idea that this boy was mauled by the bull terrier. Which, on the other hand, is a breed to be seen more, but it is always a splendid dog, to be adopted.
In this regard, are there any breeds that are not recommended and vice versa suitable for coexistence with minors?
Yes, there are breeds with which problems can occur or which need extra supervision, such as the German Shepherd and pit bull crossbreeds (non-Molossian like Neapolitan mastiff or bull mastiff). The reason is easy to understand: in every breed the behavioral tendency is markedly different. A pointer will tend to aim for prey, a border collie it never will.
These trends exist in all breeds that have been bred for different purposes. If I breed a dog for fighting or guarding it is clear that it will have that tendency. It is rare that a setter bites a child while the German shepherd is one of the breeds that more likely than others attack the same owners, because in their genetics aggression is one of the peculiar characteristics.
This does not mean absolutely, I would like to be clear, that a pit bull or a German shepherd cannot live with children: there are many examples that prove the opposite, it means that from the owners of these dogs it takes a lot more attention. And anyway, in my opinion, to adopt certain types of breeds it would first be necessary to establish by law courses with dog educators. Vice versa, among the absolutely recommended breeds for coexistence with minors there are the retrivers, the setters, the cavalier king, the jack russels who have a lot of energy but a very high tolerance threshold.
Adoption: half-breed or purebred?
The first choice is the kennel because, based on empathy, if I want my child to grow well, I'm teaching him a very important thing, that is, the life of others has a value. Wondering if we want to give someone else such a beautiful life is already a big lesson. The greatest concern of parents is the behavior of the animal but in the kennels run by good educators there will always be those who will know how to match a dog to a specific family, because they know each individual's character. So it can be adopted in the kennel in complete tranquility.
Christmas often means giving a dog to a child: yes or no?
There is nothing wrong with this, but if it is made as if it were an object, we are all wrong. If, on the other hand, I want to give my son awareness and make him grow, just act in the right way, talk to him about this thing, understand if he really wants it. It is essential, especially with adolescents, to get out of your head that they will be the only ones to take care of the animal. Even if they promise it, swearing by anything, then of course they won't. The parents are responsible for the dog in the house. Always.
Curated by Sabrina Mechella