|In a nutshell, I would no sooner let a child "own" a wolfdog, than let them drive a car...and for the same reasons!
Children simply aren't mature enough, responsible enough, and aware enough to do the right thing--and to do it every time. Conversely, I *would* let a child RIDE in a car, with a responsible adult driving...and so it is with wolfdogs.
Wolf dogs (AKA "hybrids") and children can work, with diligence & under the circumstances below. Honestly, if you have children who are below a healthy, well behaved, responsible 12 years or so, there are MUCH better choices for a dog. (In fact, the three dogs I find *least* appropriate for kids are wolfdogs, border collies, and chows...and any good breeder or rescuer of these breeds/types will likely tell you the same thing.) However, if you are bound and determined to adopt a wolfdog--or had the wolfdog first--here are some thoughts on an appropriate wolfdog/child situation.
-These animals require a higher level of responsibility than, say, a well-socialized Golden retriever. (!) Wolfdogs are less forgiving of "handler error"--this means that when you make mistakes in raising or handling the animal, he is not likely to forget; he is likely to exploit your weaknesses; he may overreact to severe corrections, or become very fearful if not properly socialized, or do whatever he pleases if you do not set--and enforce--limits. What this means, is that YOU need to be "good at dogs", and you need to make sure that your children--who, by definition, are NOT "good at dogs"--never have the opportunity to make mistakes with the animal in your absence. If you cannot guarantee that your child will be kept separate from the dog when no one is there to supervise, then walk away now and DO NOT, I repeat, do not get a wolfdog. Proper containment--a securely fenced area that children cannot enter and the dog cannot escape from--is mandatory.
-Wolfdogs require a firm, fair, calm and consistent leader. This is not optional. If you fail to be your wolfdog's leader, he will take over the family "pack" and demand that things be done his way...this may include corrective bites to humans who break the rules. At best, he will be an out-of-control fool who does as he pleases, and ignores your commands. Why is this especially important with children? Simply put, if the dog decides to play roughly, chase, or disrespect your child, you need to be able to stop him *immediately* with a strong verbal "NO!", and redirect him into more appropriate behaviour. Rough play or chasing can quickly escalate into injury, often accidental but still a serious matter.
Children generally are not emotionally capable of the self-assured, no-nonsense belief they are the one in charge, that makes for a proper leader or "alpha" for a wolfdog. Kids tend to be too insecure, or *too* aggressive. They also lack the physical strength to back up a command, or enforce the dog's limits (such as restraining him or escorting him to his crate if necessary).
-Ideally, a wolfdog who is to live with children should *grow up with* children. This means that your new acquisition should either be a young pup, or an adult who was well socialized to kids and has been kid-tested by the current owner or rescuer. Animals who have never seen children before tend to either be very fearful of them (children do not move and act like adults, and are often NOT seen as "little humans" by the dog!) or intensely curious about them. Curiousity behaviours can include rough pawing, nipping, pulling on clothes, etc which are very unacceptable and can hurt or scare a child.
-Adults supervising child/wolfdog interactions need to be well versed in canine body language and communication. If the dog is going to do something inappropriate to the child, you need to know IN ADVANCE--and the way to do this, is to "read" the dog's body language. (Body language and communications are the same in wolfdogs as in any other dog. In fact, wolfdogs tend to be much easier to read than many breeds...BUT, there must be a responsible adult present and paying attention, or all of that signalling is for naught!)
-Children need to be schooled in the proper ways to interact with, and react to, dogs. Running around squealing can be bad, depending on the dog. Climbing on the dog is bad. Hitting the dog, pulling ears, etc are bad. If the child is unable to restrain himself from doing these things, he should under no circumstances be allowed contact with the dog. Rough play between kids & dogs should be discouraged as well. Harassing or persisting after a shy animal who cannot escape, is not only *bad*, but is likely to get a child bitten. Like any dog, wolfdogs can and will bite children under the wrong circumstances! They are large and powerful animals, and a simple corrective or defensive bite can result in serious injury or even death to a child--who is much more fragile than another dog would be. Due to the timid nature of this cross, almost all wolfdog attacks involve unsupervised children, allowed to molest a dog who cannot escape--usually a dog on a chain. This scenario is a disaster in the making, and I cannot stress that enough.
Contain your dog. Supervise your child.
-Likewise, the dog needs to be taught what is and isn't acceptable to do with children. Never allow the dog to climb on the child, steal his food, or otherwise disrespect the small creature that is "YOURS".
-Bear in mind that a wolfdog is a highly sensitive, independent, and often skittish animal who is not likely to want to do "normal dog stuff" like play fetch with your child, be snuggly, or romp around in the yard with them. (Of course there are always exceptions, but these are generally the lower content animals whose personalities are dominated by the dog heritage.) Children can pet wolfdogs and can even assist in training them via clicker training/positive reinforcement :-) but, in the end, if you are acquiring a wolfdog, realize that you are getting the animal for YOU, not your child.
|My Take on Wolfdogs with Kids|