I opened up The Huffington Post this morning, like I do most days, and gladly clicked on the headline “World’s Gentlest Dog Befriends Little Boy With Down Syndrome, Melts Our Hearts”. I love stuff like this. I’m a dog lover and general sucker for feel good stories. As I watched the video, my heart was anything but melted. In truth, I was greatly concerned by what I saw. If you haven’t watched it already, it’s a short 4-minute video below:
Now, I’m no Cesar Milan, but I have some issues with what I’m seeing. Maybe I’m wrong and if so, great, but as both a parent and a responsible dog owner, I would not have let this interaction continue uninterrupted and I would not have been laughing. Here’s what bugged me:
- The little boy evidences tension and a distinct desire for the dog to leave him alone. In a child without Down Syndrome, it would not be acceptable to leave them in a situation where they are essentially being dominated by a canine. In a child with Down Syndrome, who likely has even less effective communication tools at their disposable, you must be even more vigilant. My issue here is you don’t even NEED a translation of intent by the toddler. He doesn’t want the dog messing with him. That’s a full stop both for a parent and a dog owner.
- While the dog – a female – is clearly trying to be friendly, the problem is that she is controlling the situation. In any human-dog interaction, human must always be the leader. This goes for children as well. When our children can’t vocalize for themselves, we must do it for them. It is not acceptable for a dog to believe any human baby is their puppy. This can lead to unintended, yet tragic accidents.
Despite the headline, this dog never managed to befriend this child. Right up until the last second, the toddler wanted nothing to do with the dog. His parents had a responsibility to respect that. In my mind, all they did was create tension and potentially distrust in their child.
Again, this is just me. Maybe the fact that I raise Pit Bulls is clouding my perspective. We would never allow our Pit Bulls to continue to pressure anyone, let alone a defenseless child.