Kids & Dogs-Should being deemed “not good with kids” be a death sentence?


By Candace Bailey


Hopefully over the coming weeks and months, we’ll get to know each other here – me, the fledgling blogger, and you, the audience and fans of To that end, let me tell you a little bit more about myself.


In addition to having six dogs, my husband Bill and I also have three daughters between us – two from his previous marriage and one from my previous marriage. His daughters, who live here in Oregon, have kids; Courtney has two children (high school and college age) and Lindsay has one child (turning 5 soon). My daughter, Kristan, is about to have her first baby in August! Kristan lives in W.Va., while Bill and I are here in Portland, so we will at some point wing our way east to meet this newest addition to the family.


This happy circumstance was on my mind as I read through another blog recently. Jill Kessler-Miller, expert witness in dogs, dog bites, and behaviors, puts forth her belief that dogs who are “not good” with children should be “put down”.


You can imagine some of the comments her point of view generated. As for me? Well, let’s talk it out.


I believe adults should never leave small children unattended with a dog. Ever. Any dog can bite, at any time, even for the very first time. Even if your dog is ‘bomb proof’ (well socialized/trained/etc.) I still wouldn’t be comfortable leaving small kids alone with the dog.


I also believe dog bites don’t happen “out of the blue” or that there were no warning signs a bite was coming. Dogs are communicating with us all the time; unfortunately not everyone knows or understands this and can overlook the signals that something’s not right.


How many times have you seen those “cute” photos of kids interacting with dogs, and the dog is displaying signs that s/he is stressed and needs help getting out of the situation? Not sure what I mean? How about this?


Of our six dogs, I know two of them are not good with kids, one of them is uncertain about kids, and the last three are ok with kids – and by “ok” I mean kids don’t make them nervous. They do not go all wiggly and excited to see kids or interact with them, but they also don’t duck or back away when a kid comes near. Given that, I would not leave any of our dogs, even those three ok dogs, alone or unsupervised with small kids.


According to Ms Kessler-Miller, our dogs are alright as we plan on keeping them with us for the rest of their lives. That’s responsible. She deems dogs who are “not good” with kids from shelters or rescues unacceptable and states plainly that those dogs should be euthanized.


So if something happened to us, something that would require our dogs be rehomed, if they were surrendered to a rescue or shelter to be adopted to another family, Kessler-Miller believes that organization should euthanize our nervous little dogs because they aren’t good with kid. Nevermind they’re wonderful, affectionate, generally well-behaved otherwise. Because they’re not good with kids, they should be killed.


Let’s be clear. I do not wave the No Kill banner thoughtlessly. I believe there are times when suffering, whether physical, emotional, or psychological, should be alleviated. I’ll pick peace over pain any day for my own pups and for myself (yes, I also believe in an individual’s right to die on their own terms, but that’s another topic entirely). I believe there are dogs who are too aggressive to be safely adopted out to the general public. I know there are sanctuaries out there who deal with these kinds of dogs – and I’m familiar with the Olympic Animal Sanctuary where dogs were sent for a chance at a better life and were instead made to suffer in squalor and neglect.


Do I consider the state of being “not good” with kids a form of suffering? Not at all. I know people who aren’t good with kids, and I wouldn’t advocate putting them down, either. There is a difference between being “not good” with kids and being dangerous to kids. My dogs are not dangerous to kids because I manage them and their interactions.


So what do we do about our dogs and kids? How do we manage visits from the soon-to-be 5 years old? The dogs are be moved to a part of the house or yard where they will not have access to the kids. We have baby gates and crates, and we’re familiar with crating, rotating, and managing the pups in and out of the house. If we allow the “ok” dogs to interact with the kids, we do so very carefully to make sure neither dog nor kid is in any jeopardy of being hurt, even inadvertently.


We’re also going to attend a great FREE (donations welcome) seminar offered by DoveLewis: BARKS (Building Animal Relationships with Kids Safely) – Preparing Your Dog for Your New Baby. I had no idea this kind of program was available, else we would have attended quite some time ago. I’m looking forward to learning more about helping dogs and kids learn to be together. I do not expect this will make a huge difference in the lives of our dogs, but I do believe knowledge is always valuable.


Education is key here. If a rescue is adopting out a dog who is not good with kids, that rescue is responsible for a) providing the dog with training and any behavior modification needed; b) not adopting the dog out to a family with kids; and c) making sure the family understands what the implications of “not good” with kids are. If the organization is not willing to live up to those responsibilities, then perhaps the humans running that group should be put down instead.


Do you agree with what was said here? Comment below



Candace Bailey juggles working full time at a desk with devoting as much free time as possible to animal welfare and her own herd of pups. Candace is an active volunteer for the Oregon Humane Society, where she is involved in a myriad of programs. Along with her husband Bill, they have six dogs, affectionately referred to the as The Littles – Benny, an 11 y/o poodle/beagle mix boy adopted from OHS; Maggie and Millie, 7 y/o Lhasa Apso girls; Bubba, a 5 y/o Lhasa Apso boy from the OHS Second Chance program; Pudgy, a 3 y/o Chihuahua boy; and Katie, a 2 ½ y/o Mini Dachshund girl from the OHS Columbia Co. rescue.

You might also like to listen to this interview with the late Dr. Sophia Yin, a canine behaviorist who talks about children interacting with dogs.