DOG SAFETY FOR KIDS
The most important thing that you need to know about dogs is that they are excited by things that move. Dogs love
to chase things. To stop a dog from chasing you or bothering you, the best thing to do is to stay still.
Increase your knowledge of why some dogs bite
As adults, the more we know about dogs and dog behavior, the more we can teach our children about
how to stay safe around all dogs. Dogs have a lot going on in their furry little heads. They are complicated beings with feelings
and thoughts and behaviors, some of which we like and some of which we don’t. But if we stop to learn about what they
like and what they don’t in our behavior, it makes understanding what they are trying to tell us a bit easier.
What are factors that contribute to why some dogs bite?
Hugs and Kisses: It is an unfortunate statistic that 66% of children under 4 that are bitten by dogs receive bites to the
head and neck (AVMA.) And this age group is also the most likely to want to give unsolicited hugs and kisses to every dog
Stress Signals are Ignored: Contrary to the dog bites occurring “out of
the blue,” most dogs will attempt to communicate their stress through body language long before a bite occurs. Examples
are yawning, tongue flicks, shaking off, and looking away. If a dog’s signals are continually ignored, some dogs will
escalate to growling and biting.
Lack of Supervision: Parents are busy multi-tasking the day
away and paying attention to every interaction between dogs and young children can be a challenge. The reality is that most
bites occur without adult supervision.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP YOUR CHILDREN AVOID DOG BITES
Simple steps that make a difference
Show Love Without Hugs and Kisses: Teach your children
to show affection to the dog in other ways. Demonstrate gentle petting, giving treats, or helping to prepare the dog’s
meal as ways to show the dog love. If they want to kiss the dog, teach them to blow the dog a kiss. Teach your children to
respect the dog’s body and the dog’s space.
SUPERvision: If you’re not there providing active, adult supervision, you can’t provide guidance to
your children or the dog. Children under 12 must be supervised around dogs. If you can’t be there giving 100% of your
attention, separate young children and dogs with baby gates or crates. Create child free zones that your dog can retreat to
when they need a break.
Modeling: Be a good
example for your children by modeling appropriate behavior towards dogs. If you are rough or physically discipline your dog,
your child will too. Be kind, be fair. Teach your dog the rules of the house through reward based training. Involve your children
in the process and show your children that the best way to get rewards is through good behavior.
Education: Learn about how dogs communicate with their bodies. Dogs are really
talking to us all the time. Pay attention to the subtle signs and signals that your dog is using.
DOG BODY LANGUAGE
Dogs really can speak. You just have to know their body language.
Learn the subtle signs of stress or anxiety that can indicate a dog’s discomfort. Dogs can’t tell us when they
are uncomfortable, but they do communicate through their body language. These signals can range from yawning to lip licking
to a head turn and are precursors to growling and bites. If you see a dog giving these signals when they are interacting with
your child, it is your responsibility to step in and redirect your child or the dog.
Teach your children to respect the dog’s space and the dog’s body. Just because one dog tolerates being
crawled on or grabbed or mounted like a horse doesn’t make it appropriate, safe or fair to that dog or any animal. Don’t
allow your child to treat the dog like one of their toys. Do teach your child gentle touch, soft petting on the areas of the
dog’s body that the dog enjoys. Allow the dog to have a choice to end the interaction and a space to retreat to when
they need a break that the child cannot access.
How to Approach a Dog
Children should be told to always ask permission before approaching a dog, particularly if that dog is tied up outside
a shop. They should never attempt to pat a dog who is eating, sleeping or has a toy. Many dogs are ‘resource guarders’
and will bite if they feel they have to protect their possessions and territory, but are absolutely fine in most other situations.
A dog should be approached slowly with a closed hand, giving time for the dog to sniff the back of the hand. If all goes well,
the dog can be gently patted on the chest or rubbed under the chin. Avoid the typical pat on the top of the head, as this
can be a little daunting for some dogs. The following video demonstrates a ‘consent test’, to determine if a dog
wants to be patted
Be a Tree
Practice with your children the Be a Tree game. When a child is approached
by a strange dog they should stand still, arms by side, eyes cast downwards and stay absolutely still and silent. You can
practice this game at home with children by pretending to be a dog yourself and pretending to bound over to sniff your child.
Many dogs will react if a child runs and shrieks, so practicing how to stay calm and still as a game will help your child