A few weeks ago, I posted this great article about Baby-Proofing your Dog. Dog safety is hugely important for me, because even though we can’t have dogs due to allergies, everyone else in our social circle has at least one or two.
Dog safety doesn’t just come from the dog, it’s super important to teach your kids how to behave around dogs. Your children will have friends and acquaintances with dogs. They will play in the same parks as people with dogs, and they will meet dogs all the time.
A child that feels safe around dogs is safer around dogs, because they understand dog body language and react accordingly. Preventing interaction between your child and dogs increases the chance that your child will not understand when a dog is unhappy.
Dogs can seriously hurt or kill children, and besides cases of medical emergency on the dog’s part, every single bite could have been prevented by an adult. Teaching your child basic dog safety should be prioritized as much as traffic safety.
1. No Running
Hopefully you’ve taught your child to never run away from a dog. Running away triggers a hunting response in many dogs. The dog chases and leaps at the child, and may bite in the process. At the least, the child gets knocked over.
Have you taught your child to never run at dogs? I know my son just loves dogs, even though he knows about allergies. Given a chance, he’ll barrel up to them at top speed, screech to a stop about three feet out, and then want to pet them.
Dogs get super intimidated by people running toward them. Their instinct tells them that running means either predator or prey, and they can feel that a person might hurt them. They react defensively when they can’t run (like if they’re on a leash) and people get bitten.
2. Listen To the Owner
Dog safety starts with the owner. Your child must learn to ask permission to approach dogs. Not all dogs feel comfortable with children. Some dogs feel too comfortable with children and might knock them over. Other dogs may love children but react to other dogs, and your child could get in the way.
The owner knows their dog best. If an owner says to stay away, your child needs to walk away and not look back. Dogs feel intimidated when people stare at them or circle them when they’ve already indicated that they don’t want to interact, and children like to ask multiple times and approach.
3. Stay Away From the Dog’s Things
Kids must learn to stay away from dogs’ things. They shouldn’t engage the dog in games without the family’s permission, including fetch and tug-of-war. They shouldn’t touch the dog’s toys, approach the dog’s crate, or touch the dog’s bed.
Dogs need a “safe space” to avoid stresses in life. For most dogs, their bed or crate provides this security. Children should never approach a dog in it’s crate without the permission of an adult. Dogs expect their crate to be safe from intrusion, and might bite intruders–even if the dog is otherwise very friendly!
4. Play Safe Games
Children can play with most dogs safely, if the game doesn’t have inherent risks. When dogs play tug-of-war, they often accidentally bite the human’s hand while getting a better grip, so watch that the tug toy is long enough that hands don’t get pinched. If the child is small, make sure the dog can’t knock them over while playing.
Fetch is an excellent option. A well-trained dog will quickly learn to spit the toy out at the person’s feet so they can throw again. Make sure the dog doesn’t jump on the child, and all is well.
Don’t allow children to roughhouse, and don’t allow dogs to put their mouth on the child. Monitor the play, so that when anyone gets too excited, they can be separated.
5. Don’t Let a Dog Bite Twice
If a dog snaps at or nips your child, do not allow your child to play with that dog ever again. Clearly the dog is comfortable injuring your child, and the next bite may be severe. Allowing your child to play with a dog that bites is like letting your child play with the $50 firework kit without supervision. It might go OK, or it might become a disaster.
If your child spends time with a family with a pet that bites, insist that the dog stay in a crate or bedroom, or that the family visit your home. Families that have aggressive pets should feel pressure to correct the issue through training instead of accepting poor behavior.
6. Dog Parks
While most owners who use dog parks take excellent care of their dogs, dog parks pose increased danger to your child. Most dogs run free at parks, and the owners don’t always watch as closely as they might if the dog wore a leash. Dogs also occasionally fight, and bites happen when humans get involved.
Small children should never enter dog parks. Children should stay home until they are at least four feet tall, know to never run in a dog park, and can hold their own with pushy puppies.
What other things has your family done to help your child behave properly around dogs or teach your child about dog safety?