Children and dogs

Post image for Children and dogs

Did you know that 77 per cent of all dog bites come from the family dog or a friend’s pet?

A dog bite is serious and traumatic, especially for children.  Being bitten by a dog can make a child distrust not only the dog that bit them, but also all dogs that they will ever meet in the course of their lives.  It’s up to you as a parent to ensure your child knows what to do and how to behave around dogs.

Children are particularly at risk of dog bites for several reasons; they move fast, they have proportionally larger eyes than adults – and are at the dog’s level (being smaller!) and their speed/dashing around, provokes a dog’s chasing instincts.  Their voices are high and high voices are not only less authoritative, they also excite dogs and scare them.  Added to which, children are small, they are closer to a dog’s eye level and to the floor, which is the dog’s feeding level.

For further information about dogs and babies, click here.

For further information about dogs and toddlers, click here.

In the meantime read our ‘rules for parents’ and ‘rules for children’ when living with the family dog or meeting new dogs.

Rules for parents…

  • Never leave a young child alone with a dog.
  • Teach your child the right way to pet a dog (see below).
  • Teach your children how to spot the signs that a dog might bite.  These include; ears back and flattened, lips parted, staring eyes with big pupils, bared teeth or quivering lips, hackles raised on the back, tense/ stiff body, the dog goes still and so on.  Tell your children not to approach any dog that is showing these signs.
  • Teach your children to treat dogs nicely and with respect, the way they would like to be treated themselves.
  • Never hit or kick your dog – this teaches them that hands (and feet) are something to fear.  Being cross doesn’t make you the boss – if we get cross, your dog will automatically think we are not reliable or trustworthy.  They will also become upset and anxious and may then feel the need to defend themselves by growling or biting.

Videos are a great way to teach our children about how to behave – and how not to – around dogs.  Here is a neat little video created by the Family Dog that helps illustrate the differences between what our children may think they are doing when interacting with their pet, versus how the dog may actually feel about these interactions.  Click onto the video below to watch.  Duration approx 2mins.

Rules to teach your children…

  • Never touch a dog you don’t know.
  • If you do know the dog, ask permission from the owner first and even when you have permission avoid bending down to the dog’s face or over the dog. Instead…
  • Allow the dog to come up to you and sniff the top of your hand.  If it doesn’t want to come and greet you, leave it alone.
  • Don’t approach a dog from behind nor pet a dog directly on top of its head – many dogs dislike this especially if they don’t know you.  Instead stroke gently under the chin or side – this is much more submissive and shows you are not a threat.  Stop stroking the dog after a few seconds and watch what he does.  If he moves away, leave him alone as that’s his signal he’s had enough.  However, if the dog leans into you, this is a sign that he may want some more strokes.
  • Never stare at a dog as this can make him feel uncomfortable, and never put your face close to a dog’s face.
  • Never tease a dog with food or toys.
  • Avoid going up to a dog that has been tied up or left at the end of a chain in the garden, or outside a shop.
  • Tell an adult immediately if you see a dog loose in your neighbourhood – don’t touch them.
  • Never touch a dog while it is sleeping.  You might startle or scare it and they could react without thinking and snap at you.
  • Leave the dog alone when he is eating or has a chew.  If a dog has never been trained to share (such as “drop” or trade on request) or has had a bad experience[s] in the past within this context, then attempting to snatch an item from the dog may cause him to escalate his behaviour with a growl, snap or bite in an attempt to tell you to “leave me alone”.
  • If a dog runs up to you and you are scared, stand still, look away from it and put your hands into pockets (make like a ‘tree’) – if you don’t have any pockets, fold your arms.  Then walk away sideways very slowly (rather than turning your back towards the dog, that way you can still be aware of what the dog is doing and where it is).
  • If the dog does start to become aggressive and you cannot get away, roll up tight into a ball, tuck your head under and cover the back of your neck with your hands, fingers inter-locked and call for “help”.
  • Your dog is an animal and not a cuddly toy.  Some dogs don’t like being hugged, so always be gentle with your dog, avoid rough play and never tease or deliberately over excite your dog.

Remember, dog’s do not know the difference between right and wrong so if a dog chews a shoe it’s us humans that consider this as bad behaviour, but does our dog know this is wrong?  The answer is “no”.

Any dog has the potential to bite if he or she feels threatened so control and management is key to ensuring your children and dog[s] stay safe.  Afterall, prevention is better than cure.

Previous post:

Next post: