20 November 2023
Getting cute videos of your dog interacting with your kids can be fun and adorable. But only if both parties are safe and comfortable. No matter how good of a dog your dog is — we all have our snapping points. If your pup gets to the point of being overly uncomfortable, he might feel like his safety is at risk, which can lead to aggression that might feel completely shocking if you don’t see the signs he is uncomfortable.
But you know your dog, right? You’d know if he’s uncomfortable, right? Maybe yes, maybe no. This TikTok user @fivebyfivek9, who also happens to be a certified dog trainer, points out in a seemingly innocent video of a baby touching the family dog:
@fivebyfivek9 #greenscreenduet with @Meatball & Jax 🐾 | Make sure their signals are respected, so they never feel a need to escalate! #dogbehavior #doglanguage #dogbodylanguage #caninecommunication ♬ original sound – Five By Five Canine
“When it comes to kids and dogs, it is so incredibly important to read when a dog is feeling uncomfortable and when they’re asking for something to stop or create space.
This boy is doing all of those things and when the baby doesn’t remove, he continues to escalate his signals. So let’s talk through them.
First sign that he doesn’t want his paw touched is when he moves it away. Baby touches his paw again, and once again he moves it away. And because the baby wasn’t removed the first time and continues to move forward, he now places his head between the baby and his foot.
Baby continues moving forward, so he starts giving those kisses which are not affection, those are kiss to dismiss. You can tell this is the case because none of his body language is saying he’s comfortable here. In particular, attention in the face and the staring.
In response to the parent talking to them, he turns towards them and gives them some appeasement. Then he does a calming signal by moving head away and grabbing toy in displacement. He does a tongue flick, looks over at the baby, then immediately away, vocalizes and turns his head away.
Baby is still not removed, so he brings his head back in and starts intensely sniffing mixed with those kisses to dismiss. Those vocalizations. Mixed with the intense staring, intense sniffing, tightly closed mouth, tongue flicks, and kisses to dismiss are all signs that the dog is saying ‘hi I’m really uncomfortable right now. I need space.’
When the baby vocalizes, he pulls his head back and immediately starts tongue flicking. When he vocalizes again, his eyebrows are a bit furrowed and he’s still staring intensely. He’s giving all of these signals that he’s very uncomfortable and needs space.
We then have this last escalation on the ladder of aggression, which is moving away. For dogs who are able to communicate so nicely like this without escalating further, it is so incredibly important to help them out in the situation so that it stays that way.”