The love and interaction between kids and dogs can be a beautiful thing. Yet all kids, especially young kids, need to be carefully supervised, even when with the gentlest of dogs.
Any dog can bite a child or even a baby. It’s rarely a predatory action from the dog, but more a protective instinct – if a child accidentally hurts or annoys a dog, if the dog is startled or perceives a threat, or if the child comes too close to the dog’s food or toys.
Most dog bites occur at home or in the homes of family and friends. Most are from dogs that have never exhibited aggression before. In the majority of cases, dogs bite when kids are playing unsupervised with the dog, or when the dog is disturbed when sleeping or eating.
Prevent dog bites in the following ways:
• Always closely supervise kids and dogs playing together
• Create dog-free child-zones and child-free dog zones
• Teach children from a very early age to be gentle with all animals
• Separate kids and dogs when close supervision is not possible
• Separate kids from dogs when dogs are eating, chewing a bone or treat, or sleeping. Also, keep kids away from dogs that are sick, injured, or with their puppies.
• Train your dog from puppyhood for basic commands
• Reward great behaviour from both children and dogs
• Teach children to never approach dogs they don’t know very well
• Teach children to always ask permission to pat a dog, even if they know it well.
• Teach children to let a dog smell the back of their hand before patting it.
• Always teach kids to pat a dog avoiding the tail, face, head or legs
• Never sneak up on a dog
• Never hug a dog around his neck
• Set a great example – kids will copy what you do!
It’s important to be very definite about teaching kids to never approach an unfamiliar dog.
If you are bringing a newborn into a home with a dog, be prepared that the dog may feel some ambivalence or jealousy. Use child gates in the home to keep the dog out of the baby’s room. Keep loving and being attentive to your dog, and take the time to introduce him to the new baby, allowing him to smell the baby while giving him reassurance and praise for being a good boy. Never leave a dog alone with a baby.
Being a responsible dog owner involves much more than just dog walking, feeding, and providing shelter. And being a responsible human parent involves teaching kids how to be with dogs.