Mar 23 2012
At lunch with friends this week, one was accompanied by his young child. I’m no expert on children – she’s walking and starting to say a few intelligible words, and can feed herself – so you child age experts can estimate for yourselves her age.
Now, this child did not know any of the rest of us. And she was just waking up from a nap, so somewhat sleepy and disoriented as any of us would be. If it had been a puppy, I admit I’d have been right in the middle of things attempting to hold and cuddle her – but a child – well, that’s just not me. Plus my other two friends adore little kids and were having a wonderful time with all the toe squeezing and chin-chucking.
The child was not responding well – she was pretty much stone-faced although she didn’t start crying – I give her credit for that. And as I watched these interactions and thought about them later, it dawned on me: When humans meet dogs, they treat them just like they do small children – and the dogs and children both have the same reaction: I don’t know you, get out of my face.
The difference is, dogs will either move away, growl at, or bite a stranger who is getting too familiar; children will generally just back away and become “shy,” or worst case scenario, they will start crying.
The second lesson in this experience was the child’s eventual reaction to me. I basically ignored her – not actively ignored her, but I maintained a rather neutral posture. She was getting plenty of attention from folks who really love babies, and I couldn’t see a lot of sense to insert myself into that mix – it just seemed like it would be more than she could comfortably deal with.
By the end of the hour, I noticed that she was starting to observe me. At first just quick sideways glances & then full-on checking me out. We didn’t have enough time to make direct contact, but I have no doubt that had we had another half-hour she and I would have been connecting and having some type of communication. Which again is parallel behavior to what I’d expect with a new dog.
When I meet new dogs I ignore them – I don’t try to pet, or play or interact – I maintain a neutral posture and attitude and allow the dog to check me out in its own time and as the dog’s comfort level increases and it gets more comfortable with my presence, I can slowly begin to interact. By the time I put my hand down to pet the dog, it’s comfortable with me and the unfamiliar has become the familiar.
The same for young children.
Maybe as adults we need to keep these lessons in mind – both for children and for dogs – it would save both lots of stress and grief in the long run, and would help us feel less rejected when they are allowed to approach us instead of our constant pursuit and hurt feelings when the child runs away crying or the dog snaps.Share on Facebook