When it comes to dogs, friendly and child tolerant are not the same. Many young animals are friendly. Many older animals are tolerant or retreat. I have seen a 10 month old grab two fistfuls of fur and pull up using a Labrador retriever. The dog gritted her teeth and stood still. I have seen my own dog strain on her leash to get away from a pushy 3 year old who wanted to pet her. Ironically, the parent only asked “Does she bite?” as my dog was being chased by her child. (I rescued my dog by holding the child.)
Many children are naturally curious and outgoing. They have very little sense of self-preservation when it comes to safety. A child who lives with a “child-tolerant” dog is likely to expect that all dogs will tolerate bad manners. Children who are never around dogs are often more timid but not always.
We have all seen stories of pit bulls that attack children but most dog bites never make it to the media. Over half of the dog bites I have personally seen or treated were by dogs living in the child’s household. Most of those were instigated by one of two things: the child entered the dog’s crate or the child bothered the dog while it was eating. Most adults know that these behaviors make dogs upset. Children often lack this knowledge or the lesson was not adequately instilled in them. In the last five years, every dog bite I have treated in my office involving a child over two years old, involved food. (I have treated others elsewhere that involved jealousy, fear, and desire to protect an owner.)
I always worry about newborn babies and jealous dogs. A dog that has been treated as the family’s “child” for years may not appreciate the competition. Typically, this dog is small. It sits in its parents lap as they watch tv. It is indulged even if it is well-behaved. When the baby arrives, the dog’s life changes dramatically and quickly. I once saw a three week old baby who was fatally attacked by a toy poodle and a miniature schnauzer.