Dog safety around children

Dog safety around children

Supervising your dog around children and supervising your children around dogs is paramount for both their safety. Find out more in our Dog safety around children article.

Don’t be fooled by the media into thinking that your child is at risk of being bitten by a loose, out of control dog running up to them in the park and biting the child on the face.

This can happen, but it is very unlikely.

It is much more common for children to get bitten by the family dog or a dog known to the child (for example, grandparent’s dog or neighbour’s dog). Therefore supervising your dog around your children and supervising your children around your dog is paramount for their safety.

As a mother and dog-behaviourist I have come to the realisation that it is usually a combination of both human AND dog factors that lead to a bite. The common denominator in the scenario is…. adult supervision.

Dog safety around children

People often ask me: “what is your best tip to avoid a child getting bitten by a dog?” The answer is very simple: SUPERVISION.

Unfortunately this may not be the most magical or romantic of answers, and often not one that people want to hear, but supervising your children around dogs is the MOST effective way to prevent them getting bitten.

Ultimately it is our job as parents to protect our children from harm and this leads to two responsibilities:

  1. To properly socialise and train our dogs how to behave around children;
  2. To provide our children with education about how to behave appropriately around dogs.

Here is a list of Dos and Don’ts Tips for BOTH children and dogs.

Children and dogs

1. Never run or scream around any dog.
2. Never pull a dog’s tail or ears or fur.
3. Do not hug a dog around its neck or lean over its back.
4. Do not wake a dog up suddenly.
5. Do not try to take away a dog’s toy or bone.
6. Never touch a dog when it is eating.
7. Never play tug-of-war or wrestling with a dog.

Dogs and children

1. Dogs must be taught pack structure from an early age.
2. Dogs must be properly socialised with children.
3. NEVER allow your dog to put its mouth on you or a child (even if it is only softly).
4. Do not encourage your dog to become excited around children.
5. Ensure your dog is comfortable having his food and toys taken off him.
6. Never encourage games of dominance such as tug-of-war or wrestling.

The most important point when dealing with both children and dogs is consistency. You cannot sometimes allow the dog to jump or mouth you; it should never jump or mouth you. Just as you cannot sometimes let your child play in the road or touch a hot stove, they are never allowed to do those things.

If parents become rigorous with the behaviours their dog is allowed to display around children, then they can expect a well mannered wonderful family member.

Encourage your child’s early education centre or school to engage in a dog safety programme to teach children techniques about approaching an unfamiliar dog and how to appropriately behave around pet dogs.

Now that you know a little more about dog safety around children, you might also like How to prepare your dog for a new baby. Or, for more expert advice in and around the home, check out our Family home section.

Donnelle Whiu

Donelle Whiu is a mother of 6, dog behaviourist for the last 8 years and the founder of “Safe Children / Safe Dogs” a not-for-profit organisation presenting the ‘Be like a Tree” dog safety programme in NZ Kindergartens, Kohaanga and Primary Schools.

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