Child Safety Around Dogs
The bond between a kid and their dog is special and something to celebrate. Along with careful supervision, teaching kids the basics of dog behavior gives them the tools to recognize and respect boundaries, helping to ensure their safety and the dog’s comfort.
Dog language is nonverbal, but dog behavior speaks volumes; you can teach kids how to “listen” to a dog by observing the dog’s body language. Most dog bites are preceded by a warning; learning to recognize the signs of a stressed dog or an impending bite helps kids know when to back off.
Understanding Dog Behavior
- Dogs are social and active animals, give them regular opportunities for exercise, play, and human interaction to keep them happy, healthy, and ready to socialize.
- Dogs do not instinctively understand sharing but can be taught to share.
- Dogs who are exposed to children early are likely to be more tolerant of them.
- Dogs need their own safe, quiet place to retreat when they feel the need.
Children can be taught to read this “language,” but a very young child will have difficulty remembering and interpreting its subtleties; focus instead on gentle behavior and close supervision of any interactions.
Practice safe habits from the get-go; lead by example and teach your children. These basic dog safety guidelines can help you get started:
- If you have an infant or very young child, never allow a dog into the child’s room without close supervision.
- Help your child understand that dogs are sensitive to touch and don’t like to be squeezed tightly or pulled on, focus on emphasizing a gentle touch.
- Encourage your child to lower their voice when playing around dogs.
- Keep dogs and kids separated at snack time or during meals.
- Help your child learn to respect the dog’s quiet time; when the dog retreats to their crate, it’s time to leave the dog alone.
- Discourage kids from putting their face close to the dog’s, and from holding the dog’s gaze with direct frontal eye contact—dogs can interpret this as a threat.
- Teach kids never to approach the dog from behind.
- If the dog is on the sofa or chair and refuses to budge, help your child understand never to push or tug the dog out of the way, but to seek your help instead.
Teach your child never to attempt to take a toy or treat from the dog, or to bother dogs while they’re eating, drinking, or sleeping. Ask your child to get you if the dog is chewing something prohibited.
- Teach kids to ask a trusted adult for help when in doubt and if they feel uncomfortable around a dog.