Top safety tips for children and dogs.

How Children should interact with dogs

  • Children and Dogs – a match made in heaven or a complete nightmare
  • Dogs are no different from humans – they too can become easily irritated and annoyed

There are many worrying cases that we hear of in the News when a dog has attacked or bitten a child, but in most cases, these have been the result of the child annoying the dog, perhaps when the dog was sleeping or eating. Some children tend to play “rough” games with their pets or irritate them by taking their toys. Kids tend to be noisy when playing but imagine how this loud screaming sounds to an anxious dog.

In reality, there are many times that children can interact with dogs, but first, they need to be taught that it’s good to be kind and polite to pets. Parents should also teach their children to recognise any signs that the dog is anxious or fearful so that the child knows not to push the situation further. Even if the dog is very tolerant, and the child well behaved, accidents can occur in a split second, so all interactions must be supervised.

Tips on how to approach a dog for both adults and children

  • Ask before approaching . Always ask the owner for permission before approaching.
  • Never approach a dog that appears fearful, stressed or anxious.
  • Do NOT run towards a dog. If you have the owner’s permission to meet the dog, walk slowly forward.
  • Let the dog come to you – don’t invade the dog’s personal space.
  • Let him sniff the back of your closed hand and if he’s a small dog, bend down to his level
  • Stay well away from any dog that is eating, or chewing his toy or a treat.
  • Never approach a sleeping dog, after all, there is a lot of truth in let sleeping dogs lie
  • Never startle a dog by jumping or shouting at them

How to avoid getting into danger with dogs

Children must be taught that it’s dangerous to run away from a dog, which may induce a predatory reaction. Likewise, excessive noise such as screaming or yelling around dogs can either excite or scare the dog, or perhaps annoy others.

If your child encounters a strange dog that’s wandering with its owner or its lead, make sure that they know not to go towards the dog. If by chance the dog begins to walk towards them, stand very still, trying very hard not to run or scream and don’t look directly at the dog.  Try to be boring and uninteresting. In a deep voice, try to tell the dog “No! Go Home”, then slowly back away or wait until an adult arrives.  When you next go to the park why not practice this when a dog comes up to you

Dogs can sometimes be scared of children because they’re unpredictable, more boisterous, clumsier and more likely to get in a dog’s face than an adult will. This isn’t only the key to staying safe around dogs, it’s also the way to become best friends with our dogs too

How to introduce dogs to children

The bond between a dog and a child can be a truly beautiful thing. They seem to have a mutual understanding of each other and treat one another with gentleness and tolerance. Dogs tend to sense when a child’s upset, worried or anxious and they have a way of providing comfort in a non-intrusive and calm manner. Their love and understanding of children have been hugely recognised in the world of Autism, Blindness and Down’s syndrome – vulnerable children to whom dogs have been proven to be a huge benefit to and can have a blossoming relationship built on appreciation and trust, often able to reach children who many others cannot.

Something that many families tend to forget, however, is that a dog cannot tell you when they’re frustrated, or when they’ve had enough and often they can only display this by actions, some of which are deemed aggressive. More than half of reported dog bites in the UK have happened to children, and almost 100% of them could have been prevented.

 Never leave children and dogs unsupervised

All dogs have the capacity to bite. Even if you have the friendliest dog in the world you should acknowledge that a dangerous situation could develop in mere moments. Although children mean no harm, many of their actions can trigger aggression in dogs.

Startling a dog:

Any dog that is startled, maybe by his tail being pulled or a child jumping on their backs, may bite. This is called defence aggression and is a natural response in all dogs. Children should be educated on how to act correctly around a dog, a dog also needs to have his own space which he can retreat to when needed and it’s vital that this area is out of bounds to children.

Children and Boundaries:

A dogs food is not something that a child should ever be near, and supervision is required at all times. Children also need to realise that a dog isn’t a play toy, they can tire, become frustrated and not want to be bothered – ensure that your children know the signs of when a dog had enough and that you know the same – a straight tail, raised hairs, growls and whimpers mean you need to back off.

Don’t allow teasing:

Many children can find a dogs display of frustration, fright or aggression amusing – such as when a dog bares his teeth (often wrongly interpreted as a smile by small children), or when a dog howls, whines or barks – although interesting noises for a child, they mean a dog is anxious and an anxious dog is one prone to snapping. A dog can be anxious if a child is teasing him with a chew toy, treat or titbit this absolutely should not be allowed.

Don’t’ Hug a Dog:

Another thing we must point out is that, although it’s lovely to look at, you shouldn’t really let your kids hug your faithful friend. Studies have shown that dogs really aren’t keen on this sort of affection, and would much prefer a pat or stroke to a cuddle or kiss. However soft you may think your dog is, you might want to know that research has shown that “Familiar children were most commonly bitten in relation to food or resource guarding and “benign” interactions such as petting, hugging, bending over, or speaking to the dog.” Food for thought we think. So make sure the kids know this and always watch your kids around your dog to make sure they don’t restrict your pooches escape route if they are getting fed up with the attention.

Dog Growling:

Remember should the dog start to growl then it is time to back away.  You should never ignore a growling dog as this is the dog’s way of warning you, he is not happy with that action and should not be ignored.  Simply stop the action and back away otherwise you may end up with an angry dog – a growl is a warning sign.  It is also wrong to punish a dog for growling.

Health concerns

Children and dogs live together very happy with only a tiny risk of transmitted infections between the two. Always make sure that your child washes his hands when he has been playing with the dog. However, when taking children into consideration, there are health concerns, such as dog bites and rabies. Make sure that your dog is vaccinated for rabies, in addition to all of his other recommended vaccinations. Also ensure that your adult dog or puppy are dewormed regularly, against hookworms and roundworms. Some children suffer from allergies and in these cases, it’s advisable to keep your pet away from the child’s sleeping area

Why not consider a Rescue Dog

There are many reasons why dogs end up in rescue centres, and many of them are in need of loving family homes. The philosophy of the Rescue Centre should always be to match the dog to an appropriate family, mainly to ensure long term success with the adoption. During this rehoming process, you will be asked a multitude of questions relating to your home, family and lifestyle and about your children, as not all dogs will be sociable with different ages of children.

Many dogs from rescue homes have had a poor start in their lives, and by rescuing a dog you can teach your child some valuable life lessons. They will also learn the importance of responsibility and respect for animals.

There is no better relationship than one that exists between a child and his dog. Both children and dogs require an enormous amount of your time, but the bond that is forged has huge benefits for them both. After all, dog isn’t just man’s best friend- he can be everyone’s!

Keeping your children safe around dogs – the ages of responsibilities

  • With over 7 million dogs in the UK, many of these are family pets
  • It’s important that children understand the need for safety and how to behave when dogs are around
  • There are many benefits to having children and dogs together in your home

 Buying your child a puppy of his or her own, so that they can grow up together, is a brilliant idea for many reasons. Taking care of a puppy will help your child to understand patience and responsibility, as well as other important values, and it’s highly likely that they will become best of friends too.

When it’s time for the discussion of when is the right time to buy a new puppy, you need to consider that children mature at different rates. You will expect your child to take on some of the responsibilities that owning a new dog brings to the home, yet it’s equally important how they will both interact with each other. Younger children sometimes won’t understand certain guidelines that are necessary when it comes to animal care and ownership.

Babies and dogs

Obviously, your new baby won’t be helping much with the care of a dog, but you will need to include your pet in this huge change in your family. Set aside a time each day that will be “baby time” and allow your dog to accept this so he won’t feel neglected. On baby arrival day, introduce your dog to the baby in a careful, soothing and calm manner. When your dog interacts with the baby, in a positive way, offer lots of praise. Your dog still needs plenty of attention too, so don’t neglect him and give him plenty of walks and treats.

Toddlers and dogs

Young children under the age of 3, often don’t understand the concept of safety boundaries with animals. Toddlers are often over-enthusiastic with a dog, jumping on them and pulling at them. Teach your dog to expect the toddler to pick up his toys and reach into his water and food bowls. Train your dog to understand the word “gentle” and remember that even the most docile of pets should be never be left alone in the room with a small child, unattended.

3 to 6-year-olds and dogs

If you’ve had your dog since the baby arrived, by the age of 3 they will have built up quite a strong relationship. At around this age, your child will be able to help to groom and play with the dog, and to help with feeding time, cleaning the food and water bowls or giving treats for tricks.  Allowing a young child to help out in this way, fosters responsibilities towards safe pet care. Both the child and the dog will love this happy interaction.

School-age children and dogs

At around this time, it’s good to introduce proper techniques for living and interacting with dogs to avoid a negative relationship. Some of these are:

  • Never approach an unfamiliar dog
  • Don’t shout at, or run away from a dog
  • Always have adult supervision when playing with a dog
  • Never disturb a dog that is sleeping or eating or one that has puppies
  • Never run away if a dog approaches you
  • Allow a dog to take a sniff of you before stroking or petting him

Always bear in mind that even the most well behaved and trained dogs may become aggressive in certain situations, even during play. Always ensure that an adult is present when young children and dogs are together to avoid any upsets or mishaps. It takes a little time and effort during the child’s early years to help them to take care of a pet and get used to having a dog around, but you will see the benefit when the two become close and best friends over the years.

What to do if your child is afraid of dogs?

  • More than a third of children in the UK are frightened of dogs
  • It’s really important for a child to be comfortable and feel safe around dogs

It’s very important to supervise any dealings that your child has with any dog – your own pet or one that you meet in the park, to keep both the child and the dog safe. Experiencing a bad interaction with a dog at a young age can be very determined for a child which can escalate over time, becoming a genuine phobia or fear of dogs, which can remain with the child throughout the whole of their lives.

It’s understandable that if your child has had a nasty encounter with a dog, been frightened by or bitten, they are going to be wary of any future canine contact. You must try to deal with this fear at a very young age, to attempt to help them overcome their anxieties.

Avoid problems in the first place

From a very early age, teach your child how to behave correctly when around any dog. Never leave a child unsupervised with a pet until they know and understand the basics of good behaviour and dog communication, and never interact with a strange dog. A child needs to understand a dog’s body language; never to creep up and startle a dog; to know when a dog has had enough, and of course never to approach a stranger’s dog without permission from its owner.

Have a discussion with your child about their fears

Have a conversation with your child to discover the reason behind their fears and phobia and always speak positively about dogs and model positive behaviour yourself. Approach the route to engaging with dogs, using books with doggy pictures, movies that have dogs in starring roles, and eventually lead up to contact time with a friendly, calm and quiet dog. Get your child to understand that just like people, no two dogs are the same, and just because one dog is naughty, not all dogs are the same. Explain that dogs see situations differently to us and that screaming or running away from a dog can be seen as a challenge to play.

When you are out and about

  • If you encounter a dog and feel frightened, walk past it quietly and calmly
  • Don’t run, as the dog may think you want to play and begin to chase you
  • Don’t scream or shout, as this can alarm or excite the dog
  • It’s best to avoid locations where dogs are walked off the leash
  • Many children’s play parks have fences around to keep dogs out
  •  Say a firm Sit as this often works
  • Be like a tree

Top Tips for dog owners

When out walking your dog, keep him under control at all times, and make sure he will come back to your recall. When you’re out walking in the park or near play areas, keep your dog on the lead as an added precaution. Always be cautious when you have your dog around children, especially if he can get over-excited or doesn’t react too well to loud noises.

We can’t expect every child to become totally excited about dogs. Still, your child should be happy to spend supervised periods around dogs when the need arises, without feeling uncomfortable or scared, even if they never become to love dogs as much as you do.

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