Not all dogs are able to tolerate children for long periods of time and some dogs may be afraid of children. This must always be taken into consideration, since children can be injured while interacting with dogs. Children are unpredictable; they move around differently, and they can become suddenly excitable and have higher-pitched voices, all of which can trigger a dog’s internal state of arousal. These quick movements and loud sounds can resemble “wounded prey” to a dog and may result in an unanticipated reaction or injury, such as a bite or muzzle punch.
Handlers sometimes unknowingly push their dogs to interact with children even if it is clear that the dog is uncomfortable. To honor our commitment to offer the highest level of quality and safety while interacting with children and/or special needs individuals, additional testing and screening – beyond the Basic Certification – is required of Canine Assisted Therapy’s therapy teams. It is essential that your dog actively seeks out the attention of children and is comfortable in unpredictable situations. Our Advanced Certification places your dog in “realistic” but controlled situations, to gauge his/her reaction. This ensures your dog is suitable for interacting with children to minimize risk for all those involved.
A C.A.T.-certified handler’s first responsibility is to observe their dog at all times and be able to read the signs and signals the dog is sending. Even if your dog has had positive experiences with children in the past, it is never a guarantee for how they will react in particular environments and circumstances. No dog should ever be considered incapable of biting; it is in their nature as animals.