Children of all ages can learn a great deal by sharing their home with a dog, and being exposed to the presence of animals from an early age. Raising your child with a dog can instil in them a lifelong love of the species that will help to shape the entire rest of their life, as well as helping them to learn about respect for animals, responsibility, and many other intangibles that will have positive implications across all areas of their life.
However, it is also of course really important to make sure that your child’s experiences with dogs are positive and age-appropriate and most vitally, safe. A child that lives with an impeccably well-behaved dog that will tolerate a lot of noise, activity and even being pulled around will often come to believe that all dogs will respond to them in the same way-and this is of course by no means the case.
In this article, we will share ten important safety tips to teach children about dogs, which will help to keep them safe and improve their understanding of and interaction with our canine companions too. Read on to learn more.
One cardinal rule to teach all children as early as possible is that they should never approach a strange dog without first asking the dog’s owner, and to keep a reasonable distance from the dog while they do so. A great many young children will become excited at the sight of a strange dog and may even run right up to it, and this will often frighten or upset even an outgoing or friendly dog, which can lead to accidents.
Make sure that your child understands that they should not touch a strange dog without permission, and why that is.
Once your child has learned that they should never approach or pet a strange dog without permission, it is time to teach them how to approach and greet a dog once they have been given the go-ahead. This should cover the basics such as moving gently, speaking calmly and allowing the dog to come to them, rather than the other way around.
Teaching your child not to be rough or pull your dog around is something that your child should begin learning as soon as they are old enough to interact with the dog, and ensuring that your dog is not bullied or scared of your child is essential.
It is also vital to teach your child that all dogs are different, and just because your own dog likes or tolerates something does not mean that other dogs will!
An important skill for older children to learn when they are reaching an age when they will soon be able to be around dogs unsupervised is knowing when to leave the dog alone. Teaching your child to read the signals and cues that dogs give off when they have had enough and need some space is vital, in order to keep your child safe and your dog happy.
Children must also learn at this time about when they should not disturb the dog-such as when the dog is eating, sleeping, or faced with a lot of stimulus such as nose and activity or is greeting another dog. This is important not only for the safety of your child, but for the sake of your dog’s sanity!
Teaching children that a wagging tail means a friendly dog is one of the first things that many parents will do, and for very young children that will always be supervised around dogs, this is fine. But it is also important to build upon your child’s knowledge and understanding in this respect as they get older, and learn about warning signs such as growling and tense body language, as well as the fact that a wagging tail is not always the sign of a happy dog!
It is wise to teach your child the basics of what to do if they are out and about or visiting a friend and a dog that is aggressive, unruly or a potential threat is coming at them.
The basics of this advice should be based on not running, keeping the dog in sight, not making direct eye contact and keeping their hands within the profile of their body, as well as trying to place a bag or other obstacle between the dog and themselves whilst looking around for help-and fine-tailoring this information to make sense to your child in the real world.
If your child spots an unsupervised dog running around in the park or the street, teaching them how to interpret its cues and body language without directly approaching it is important. Older children should also begin to learn the basics of how to seek help in looking for the dog’s owner, or what to do about a dog that appears to be on its own.
It is really important that your child appreciates that every single dog that they will ever meet is an individual, with their own personalities, temperaments and likes and dislikes. Expecting all dogs to react in the same way as the child’s own dog, particularly when it comes to dogs of the same breed or that otherwise look like your dog is something that small children tend to do, and so it is important to help them to understand that this is not the case.
Finally, one often overlooked situation that can be dangerous when it comes to children and dogs is that a dog that is scared, nervous or unsettled can potentially be a threat in just the same way that an aggressive dog can be, and how to tell if a dog is not happy and keep a safe distance.