The relationship between a child and a dog can be extremely rewarding. However, as a dog grows older, it gets much harder to keep up with an energetic child. And hugs that used to be welcomed can now be painful if the dog has arthritic joints or decreased sensory perception.
If you have younger children in your household, you need to educate them on the changes that your dog is going through. They need to understand that your dog has special needs now that he's getting older.
Here are some of the key things you and your children should know about older dogs:
Older dogs can be easily frightened or taken by surprise by high noise levels or quick movements because their vision is weak or they've become hard of hearing.
Sore joints may prevent him from getting away from an annoying situation, thus increasing his stress level. Even something as simple as petting may be painful, causing an older dog to growl or bite, a reaction that a child may not realize is your dog's way of saying, "That hurts!"
Dogs can be very eager to please and will often play through their pain if they think it's making their owner happy. Children need to be careful not to let your dog overdo it, especially when it comes to physical activity. And be aware that older pets may have difficulty maneuvering on stairs and wood floors.
One way to help your kids understand an older dog's special needs is to get them to help make your dog's life a little easier. Smaller children can make sure your dog's bed is nice and comfy for "naptime". Enlist older kids to help you build a special ramp to help your dog climb stairs. The more your kids get involved in ensuring your dog's quality of life, the better understanding they'll have of his unique needs.
One last thing: Even if your dog has never had problems with children in the past, it's not a good idea to leave your child and older dog unsupervised.