Are you raising children and dogs in the same household? If so, that’s fabulous! Raising a child with a dog can have an endless number of benefits, and it can even lead to a child growing up a happier, healthier, and more well-rounded individual.
Of course, dogs also benefit from having human siblings.
It’s also important to remember that dogs are also living beings. They are complicated, emotional creatures that if not treated respectfully can growl, nip or even bite to communicate how they are feeling.
And since children have statistically proven to be the likeliest victims of dog bites, we’ve decided to make it our mission to help. At Good Dog Spot, we know the importance of the child and dog bond and we want to ensure it is nurtured in the healthiest possible way.
So, if you’re a parent raising both dogs and children in the same home, this is your must-read guide to kid and dog safety.
But First, Let’s Begin With Some Dog Bite Statistics
Before we begin discussing kid and dog safety, let’s first cover some dog bite statistics. You can also find more information on the below statistics here.
- 77% of dog bites occur with a dog the child is familiar with
- 80% of dog bites occur at home Children between the ages of 5 and 9 years old are the most common victims of dog bites in children
- Dog bites are the second leading cause for emergency room visits for young children
- 51% of dog bite victims are children, according to the Humane Society, and children are much more likely than adults to be severely injured or killed by dogs
Why It’s Never The Dog’s Fault
Remember, all dogs can bite.
This includes the family dog that sleeps with the toddler every single night, it includes the dog that has been professionally trained and has never so much as sneered at the neighborhood cat, it includes the dog that is six pounds and the dog that is 130 pounds and all the dogs every size and weight in between.
All dogs can bite, and all dogs will bite if they must.
Just like humans, dogs have a certain level of tolerance. Unlike humans, most dogs have a level of tolerance we can only dream of.
But all dogs have a breaking point. When a dog growls, nips, or bites, it’s typically after he’s tried communicating in all the other ways he knows how to try and get the subject to back off.
If you’re ignoring your dog’s cues, or if you simply don’t know them, then of course this will eventually lead to a bite.
The good news is that dogs are relatively easy to read once you learn what to look for.
A few of the most common cues an anxious dog might exhibit include:
When you can see the whites of your dog’s eyes when you’re handling him, feeding him, playing with him, or cuddling him, this is a clear indicator that your dog is anxious. Whale eyes can often be a sign that your dog is fearful or uncomfortable with what is going on.
Lip Licking or Yawning
Lip licking or yawning is another sign that a dog is anxious or uncomfortable. These are easy signs to miss if you aren’t aware of them, but once you realize what these signals mean you will start to notice every time your dog uses them.
When your dog turns his head away or avoids looking at you, it’s a clear sign he’s anxious, uncomfortable, or fearful.
When a dog walks away, it’s best to give him his space. Like people, dogs may need breaks from play, attention, or physical touch, and it’s important to respect your dog’s boundaries.
Shaking off is your dog’s way of “shaking off” that anxiety he had built up from what was likely a stressful situation. Try and pay attention to what causes your dog to shake off his anxiety, and work with our child to avoid putting your dog in those situations in the future.
Childhood Behaviors That Commonly Lead To Dog Bites
Children are bitten more often than adults because They are much closer to a dog’s eye level and tend to play or behave more roughly.
Some Common Behaviors In Children That Can Increase The Risk Of A Dog Bite Include:
- Children snatching a dog’s toy or bone away
- Children invading a dog’s space while he is eating
- Children physically waking or pestering a dog while he is sleeping
- Children climbing on, pulling on, sitting on, poking, pinching, hitting or kicking a dog
- Children hugging a dog
- Children teasing a dog with toys, food or a treat
- Children scolding a dog
- Children screaming, running or roughhousing around a dog or with a dog
- Children kissing a dog
- Children putting their face directly in a dog’s face
Now, not all these behaviors are going to automatically result in a dog bite the first time. You may be reading this thinking, “my children have done all of these things to my dog and nothing has ever happened”.
To that we say yet. Nothing has happened yet.
And if your child routinely behaves this way with any dog, it might only a be a matter of time before something tragic does happen. It’s so important to do your research and work with your children on how to respectfully interact with not only the family dog, but any dog that your child may come across.
Kid and Dog Safety – How Children Can Safely Interact With Familiar Dogs
Remember, most dog bites on children occur in the home or with a familiar dog the child knows. It’s unlikely that your child will be randomly bitten by a dog (though it does happen).
Familiar dogs include but are not limited to your family dog, an extended family member’s dog, a friend’s dog, and your neighborhood dogs.
Here are some tips to provide your child with about how to interact with a dog they know:
- Be respectful of your dog’s body
- Pet your dog gently on the chest, shoulders or base of the neck
- Allow your dog to walk away once he’s had enough
- If your dog doesn’t want to snuggle or play, that’s okay!
- Be gentle, calm and quiet around your dog
- Play appropriate games with your dog like fetch and hide and avoid games that involve a lot of physical contact with your dog.
- Dogs don’t like hugs or kisses. Try blowing your dog a kiss instead or kissing your hand and petting your dog with that kissed hand from his collar to tail.
- Respect your dog’s space: don’t bother your dog when he’s sleeping or eating and don’t take his things away from him. Dogs don’t always like to share.
- If you do need to take something from your dog trade him for something yummy like a treat.
Kid and Dog Safety – How Children Can Safely Behave Around Strange Dogs
It’s sometimes easier to protect your children when it comes to the dogs in your own home. You know your dog better than anyone, especially when you’ve taken the time to understand canine body language and learn how your dog communicates.
But what happens when a dog approaches them they do not know, or when you go to a friend or family member’s home and they have a dog that has not been adequately socialized around children?
This is where all your training and work on kid and dog safety will come in handy, but moments like these will still require a few extra tactics.
If your child is approached by a strange dog or a dog that seems threatening, instruct your child to follow the below tips:
- Stand still
- Tuck your arms in tight
- Turn away
- Look down
- Wait calmly until the dog leaves
Your role in keeping your child safe around your family dog.
Along with helping your child understand the importance of kid and dog safety, it’s also important you take time to understand your part in the process as well.
Avoid Investing In A Dog With Behavioral Issues If You Already Have Children
Like people, dogs can struggle with mental health and it is possible for dogs to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety and PTSD.
Dogs who have experienced trauma in their lives and have a history of fear-based aggression are generally not a safe dog for families.
These dogs typically do best with educated owners equipped to handle dogs with special needs who can help keep that dog (and those around that dog) safe, healthy and happy.
Make Sure Your Dog Is Trained and Socialized Properly
Once you do get a dog, it’s up to you to make sure that dog is raised properly and is in a safe, loving and healthy environment that enriches his emotional and physical health.
A dog behaving like a dog is not a dog’s fault. If your dog is not properly trained or socialized, or if he has not been properly treated, you cannot expect that dog to know how to behave around people or children.
Have A Strong Understanding Of Canine Body Language So You Can Be Your Dog’s Advocate
When teaching your children kid and dog safety, it’s going to be important to have a basic understanding of canine body language. But we encourage you to go one step further.
Do as much research as possible when it comes to dog body language and canine communication. Try and learn as much as you can about your specific dog, how he communicates and what he is telling you in everyday subtle cues.
The better you know your dog, the better equipped you’ll be to advocate for him. This in turn can help ensure that all members of your household both two-legged and four are safe and happy.
Give Your Dog A Safe Space Inside Your House
No matter how fun-loving, affectionate, sweet, or gentle your dog is with your child, chances are he will still need breaks and space.
Provide your dog with a space that is all his own and teach children that when your dog goes to this space he is to be left alone. It’s okay to respect your dog’s personal space and alone time, and it’s important for children to respect it too.
Use Positive Reinforcement Techniques During Training And Lead By Example
Your children are watching you.
Treat your dog exactly as you want your children to treat your dog. Be gentle, use positive reinforcement training techniques and never use physical force or harsh punishments on your dog.
Physical or harsh punishments often lead to a dog that is fearful of you, and a dog that is fearful is a dog that is much more likely to bite.
Children who see their parents behaving this way around a dog are also much more likely to mimic this behavior. Sadly, this not only deteriorates the relationship between your dog and your child, but it commonly leads to bites.
Always Supervise Young Children Around The Family Dog – No Matter What
At the end of the day, there is no amount of training or kid and dog safety courses that can substitute for parent vigilance.
This is especially true for very young children under the age of five, and for any child of any age who is particularly rough, rambunctious or handsy with the dog.
Never leave your child unsupervised with a dog. If you are busy, be sure that the dog is separated from the child either by keeping the dog and child in separate rooms, by letting your dog play outside while your child is inside, or by investing in a baby gate or playpen to help add a divide between a child and a dog.
Remember, kid and dog safety is up to you and no one else. You have the tools you need to protect your child and your dog and to help ensure they grow up together as happy and harmoniously as possible.
For more information on kid and dog safety, visit us at walkmydogspot.com. And for even more tips and tricks, enroll in our kid and dog safety program today.
This program is specially designed for children and parents to be an interactive, fun, and educational program to empower children and teach them how to be safe and have fun with their furry family members.
So, what do you think about kid and dog safety? Have you ever considered teaching your children the basics of canine body language?
Tell us what you think in the comment section below.