Dog Safety Guidelines for Kids & Families
DOG SAFETY GUIDELINES FOR KIDS & FAMILIES
I. CHILD SAFETY AROUND DOGS
Any parent or grandparent appreciates the natural curiosity and energetic nature of a young child. A dog or puppy is an attractive object of that keen curiosity, an animated version of a cuddly stuffed toy; it should come as no surprise that most children are drawn to a puppy or dog like a moth to a flame. But a young child in particular can’t understand or respect boundaries the way an older child or adult does: it’s not uncommon for a little person to want to get in a dog’s face or squeeze her affectionately. And a child’s high-pitched squealing, whether it comes from animated play or just plain enthusiasm, is to be expected.
These two proclivities—squeezing and squealing—are antithetical to a dog’s very nature. Squeaks and squeals can trigger a dog’s prey drive, which is difficult or impossible to turn off. And most dogs do not enjoy being hugged, however heartfelt the gesture; some may even interpret a hug as an invitation to fight. Dogs in general, including the family dog, do not view children as authoritative, and an in-your-face stare from a pint-sized person, even with benign intentions, can be interpreted as a direct threat in dog-speak. These ingredients—squealing or screeching, direct eye contact, the tight squeeze (which can also leave a dog feeling cornered), and the dog’s perception of child-as-subordinate—can potentially simmer in a volatile mix that boils over with a dog bite.
The mix of dogs and kids always requires supervision by a watchful adult, but parents would also do well to teach their children about safety in the company of dogs. Because dogs communicate non-verbally, teaching children to read dog body language is a good place to start and goes a long way towards keeping interactions between them safe and social.
Understanding Dog Behavior
II. TEACHING CHILDREN ABOUT DOG BODY LANGUAGE
Dog language is nonverbal, but dog behavior speaks volumes; you can teach your child or grandchild how to “listen” to a dog by observing his body language. Most dog bites are preceded by a warning; learning to recognize the signs of a stressed dog or an impending bite will help your child know when to back off.
1. Signs of Aggression in Dogs
2. Signs of Fear in Dogs
Why do dogs bite?
Parents should teach their children that dogs are more likely to bite when:
3. Signs of an Alert Dog
4. Signs of a Playful Dog
5. Signs of a Relaxed Dog
Many young children can be taught to read this “language,” but a very young child will have difficulty interpreting its subtleties; focus instead on gentle behavior and continue to instill a more and more sophisticated understanding of dog language as your child grows, closely supervising any interactions with dogs.
III. INTRODUCING DOGS TO CHILDREN
If you and your family are lucky enough to share your lives with a dog, practice safe habits from the get-go; lead by example and teach your children. Observe these basic dog safety guidelines:
CHILD’S PLAY: SAFE GAMES FOR YOUR KIDS AND THE DOG
Encourage healthy, fun interaction between the family pet and your child or children:
These activities are unsafe for a child to undertake with a dog:
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie: Knowing When to Leave Them Be
For many of us a special dog occupies an important place in the family “pack”—our beloved canines really do want to be our best friends. But even if you don’t share your home with a dog, teaching your child safety around them is important. And if you’ve been thinking about bringing home a new puppy or dog, get a leg up on safety ahead of time: carefully research a wide range of breeds, paying especial attention to breed-specific temperament. Also consider the dog’s source: a retriever who has been bred for prowess in the field may be unsuitable as a family dog. Dog safety starts with creatures who are destined to get along. Observe safety precautions, and enjoy his company: there is no substitute for the enrichment that comes from the unconditional love of a dog.
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