Children and dogs can form special bonds and engage in healthy play, but parents and dog owners need to know what precautions to take to make sure these interactions are safe and pleasant for everyone.
Many children get their first impressions of dogs from books, games, and TV, and they assume every dog is friendly. This is not always the case. Even well-trained dogs can be unpredictable in unfamiliar settings.
Teach Children to Respect Dogs
When children have their first encounters with dogs, the first lesson they need is how to respect the animals. Children should never treat a dog like a toy they can climb on or grab. Dogs don’t understand when children are being playful, and they may interpret certain actions as threats. Their fear of these threats can turn into aggression.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says more than 4.5 million dog bites are reported in the U.S. each year. Children are the most common victims and are more likely to sustain serious injuries. Dogs bite for several reasons, often because they feel threatened or scared.
To help prevent dog bites, responsible parents should:
- Explain to children why they should never put their face in a dog’s face. Children may see this as a way to show affection, but dogs might not.
- Make children understand they should never approach strange dogs and immediately try to pet them.
- Teach children how to approach sleeping dogs. They should always speak to the dog to make sure it’s awake before they touch it. Dogs may become aggressive if they are startled.
- Show children the proper way to pet a dog to show affection.
- Explain to children why they should avoid rough play with dogs. Games such as tug-of-war can be dangerous.
- Tell children never to put their hands in a dog’s food bowl.
- Make children understand they should never try to steal a dog’s toy.
Dog Training with Kids
If you are bringing a dog into your family, then your dog needs basic obedience training. Include your children in the training so they understand how to use the appropriate commands. Being part of the process can help your child form a stronger bond with the family dog. Children may become interested in teaching the dog tricks. Working together also gives dogs and children the physical activity both need.
Even after your dog has been through training, you need to supervise their play. Be vigilant in upholding child and dog safety. If you sense the dog is getting frustrated or scared, then it’s time to separate them.
Give Dogs a Safe Place
Dogs need a safe place to take a break from children, your own or visiting kids. A good spot is their crate. Inform children they need to leave the dog alone when it is in the crate.
Reward Dogs for Nice Play
When your dog is playing well with children and showing no signs of aggression, it deserves a reward. Show your child the proper way to give the dog a treat. Commanding the dog to sit first creates a positive interaction.
Look for Signs of Stress in a Dog
Understanding a dog’s body language is essential to recognizing a potentially dangerous situation. Signs of stress that a dog may show include:
- Lip licking
- Turning its head away
- Lifting a front paw
- Leaning away from a person
- Rolling over to show its belly
Instruct your children to watch for these signs and to give the dog a break if it engages in this behavior during play.
The Come and Train It K9 team can answer your questions about safe interaction between your dog and children.