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Enabling your children to grow up with dogs around offers a huge range of benefits, and can help to foster a lifelong love of and respect for animals that will stay with the child for the remainder of their life.
Dogs and children generally get on very well together, and often form very strong bonds with each other. Many dogs are also very protective of the smaller members of their family, and even when it comes to very young children, most dogs that are used to them are very well behaved and forgiving of the occasional misstep on the part of the child.
However, owning a dog with children and keeping both parties safe is very important, and something that dog owners with kids need to take special care over. Children can accidentally hurt, scare or distress a dog without realising that they are doing so, and dog can of course hurt children too, either accidentally or because they feel threatened and scared and lash out.
One issue that many dog owners who also have young-ish children often face is teaching the child about when to leave the dog alone and respect their need for space, as well as teaching them how to touch and handle the dog appropriately and avoid hurting or scaring them.
Keeping the dog safe and happy if your child is going through a naughty stage or doesn’t know how to handle the dog can be a real challenge, but it is very important for both the child and the dog that you prevent your child from accidentally hurting or distressing your dog – such as by pulling their tail.
We all know that pulling a dog’s tail is naughty, but it can not only cause your dog pain, but also do them permanent damage. It can also lead to the dog snapping as a defensive reaction, as well as making their future reactions to children unreliable too.
In this article we will explain why it is so important to ensure that your child doesn’t pull your dog’s tail, and outline some of the issues that doing so can cause. Read on to learn more.
Whether your dog’s tail is long or short, straight or curved, and even if it has been docked or shortened due to an accident or medical problem, the tail and the bones within it are very important.
The dog’s tail extends from the end reaches of their vertebral column or the latter part of their backbone, and actually forms a part of their backbone and spine – with bones, cartilage and vertebrae within the tail that enable your dog to feel and move their tail normally. The tail is not an add-on, or a body part with no sensation – it is a living part of your dog’s skeletal structure.
Most tails contain 23 individual vertebrae supported by muscle, which extend from the point at the base of your dog’s rump along the length of the tail. Not all dog owners realise that the tail forms part of the spine – and so that any trauma or damage to the tail itself affects the dog’s whole spine, and can be very painful and potentially serious.
Dogs can and sometimes do injure their tails in a wide variety of different ways. Strains and sprains can happen now and then, and tails can even break too, due to the presence of the bones and vertebrae within them.
Whilst even a hard pull on a dog’s tail should not lead to a spinal cord injury, it can still damage or hurt the clusters of nerves and muscles at the base of the tail, and the bones, cartilage and vertebrae in the tail itself.
Not only do the muscles and nerves in the base of the tail help your dog to move their tail normally, but they are also important for controlling the dog’s bladder and bowel to toilet normally. An injury or damage to the base of your dog’s tail caused by your child pulling their tail can lead to not only pain and distress, but it can also cause serious problems such as muscle or nerve damage, which may result in a loss of bladder and/or bowel control.
It can also cause the muscles and nerves supporting the tail to be permanently damaged, which can affect your dog’s ability to hold and move their tail normally, as well as causing chronic pain.
A very hard impact to the tail or spine or a very hard pull on the tail (particularly if your dog is very small or fragile) can potentially lead to long-term or permanent damage to the spinal cord itself, which could cause lifelong pain and affect your dog’s mobility.
Whilst it is unusual for a pull to the tail to cause a spinal injury, this is a risk nonetheless, and if your dog’s tail is already hurt or injured, further damage can of course worsen things significantly.
Even if your child doesn’t pull your dog’s tail hard and never causes them harm, dogs obviously don’t like having their tails pulled because it is painful and intrusive. If your child pulls your dog’s tail or otherwise causes them pain or distress, your dog is likely to become aversive to your child (and potentially other children too) and they may become defensive or even aggressive to children in future.
This can be prevented by supervising interactions between dog and child and teaching and managing the child to ensure that they know when and how to touch your dog safely and nicely – and when to leave them alone.
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