Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
Table of contents
- How Children should interact with dogs
- Tips on how to approach a dog for both adults and children
- How to introduce dogs to children
- Never leave children and dogs unsupervised.
- Why not consider a Rescue Dog
- Keeping your children safe around dogs – the ages of responsibilities
- What to do if your child is afraid of dogs?
- When you are out and about
- Top Tips for dog owners
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 resulted in the child annoying the dog, perhaps when the dog was sleeping or eating. Some children 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 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. Walk slowly forward if you have the owner’s permission to meet the dog.
- Let the dog come to you – don’t invade the dog’s personal space.
- Let him sniff the back of your closed hand and bend down to his level if he’s a small dog.
- Stay well away from any dog 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 running away from a dog is dangerous, which may induce a predatory reaction. Likewise, excessive noise, such as screaming or yelling around dogs, can either excite or scare the dog or annoy others.
If your child encounters a strange dog wandering with its owner on its lead, make sure that they know not to go towards the dog. If the dog begins to walk towards them by chance, stand very still, try hard not to run or scream, and don’t look directly at the dog. Try to be 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. 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 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 can bite. Even if you have the friendliest dog, 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 startled 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 to which he can retreat when needed, and this area must be out of bounds to children.
Children and Boundaries:
A dog’s food is not something a child should ever be near, and supervision is always required. 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 dog’s 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. 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 let your kids hug your faithful friend. Studies have shown that dogs aren’t keen on this sort of affection and 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 ensure they don’t restrict your pooch’s escape route if they are getting fed up with the attention.
Remember, should the dog start to growl, 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. 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.
Children and dogs live together very happily, with only a small risk of transmitted infections. 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 is 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 children of different ages.
Many dogs from rescue homes have had a poor start in their lives, and you can teach your child some valuable life lessons by rescuing a dog. 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, a 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 their 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 they will likely become best of friends too.
When it’s time to discuss 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 carefully, soothingly and calmly. When your dog interacts with the baby in a positive way, offer lots of praise. Your dog 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 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 age 3, they will have built a strong relationship. Around this age, your child will be able to help groom and play with the dog and help with feeding time, cleaning the food and water bowls or giving treats for tricks. Allowing a young child to help out this way, fosters responsibilities towards safe pet care. Both the child and the dog will love this happy interaction.
School-age children and dogs
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 your child has with any dog – your pet or one 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. It can escalate over time, becoming a genuine phobia or fear of dogs, which can remain with the child throughout their lives.
It’s understandable that if your child has had a nasty encounter with a dog or been frightened by or bitten, they will 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 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 from 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 come to love dogs as much as you do.
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