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Don’t Get Bitten! Tips for Keeping Kids Safe Around Dogs
We warn our kids not to walk up to unfamiliar dogs so that they don’t get bitten, but what is the reality? As strange as it may sound, most dog bites happen with familiar dogs. This means we need to educate our children on not only how to interact with unfamiliar dogs, but how to behave around dogs in the home or homes of your friends or family. Here are some ideas to keep Junior and Fido safe when they are around each other.
Pay Close Attention
In order to ensure children’s safety around dogs, and dogs’ safety around children, it’s imperative to pay close attention to what’s going on. You can tell a lot from a dog’s body language. When dogs are relaxed and happy, their muscles are relaxed and they move softly and loosely. Their facial expressions will soften, sometimes with squinted eyes or lips pulled back just slightly. If your dog looks like he or she is wearing a grin and wagging her tail when your child approaches, it’s a good sign that the dog welcomes the action. If the dog stands up and walks away, this is your cue to have your child back off and leave the dog alone, as he doesn’t want the attention right now.
Dogs Don’t Love Hugs and Kisses
Our four-legged best friends are just so fuzzy and adorable, it seems instinctive to children to give them a big squeeze to show their affection. The problem is, for the most part, dogs do not like being hugged or kissed. They will often look away from the person giving them affection. Your dog may hold his mouth shut tight and eyes wide open. Granted, there may be a few dogs who enjoy hugs, but you’re better off teaching your children to interact in a way your dog enjoys, like a chest scratch.
Dinner Time is Alone Time
Meal time for your dog is prime time for bites to occur because dogs instinctually guard their food. Teach children not to bother your dog while he or she has food. If your child is too young to understand, make sure your dog has a spot of refuge where he or she can eat in peace. If your dog shows signs of anxiety during meal time or any other interaction, separate the child and the dog right away.
Get the Right Dog for Your Family
If you’re looking to add a dog to your family (especially with young children), make sure you get a dog who is well-socialized, especially as a puppy. Allow your children to be part of the training process so that kids are learning how to properly interact with your pup just as your pup is learning to interact with your family.
Teach Stranger Danger
While most bites do happen with familiar dogs, you should still educate your children about interacting with strange dogs. Teach them to never reach through a car window or over a fence to pet a strange dog. Never approach a loose dog or a dog tied up on a lead outside.
Of course, there will always be exceptions to these rules because, like children, dogs are all different. But learning about dogs’ body language and behaviors can mean the difference between getting bitten and staying safe. For more information and resources, feel free to contact Head of the Class Dog Training.
Lisa Marino, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, PMCT, has taken her varied teaching experiences and applied them to helping owners understand and train their beloved four-legged family members. She has more than four years’ experience leading group dog training classes at Best Paw Forward in Hartland, WI, and opened Head of the Class Dog Training LLC in Winchester, VA in 2012, where she conducts group classes and private lessons, as well as helps owners to modify their dogs' problem behaviors.
Lisa earned her CPDT-KA in 2012, is a 2015 graduate of the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy and is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer.
She has 4 registered therapy dogs and is a Pet Partner Therapy Team Evaluator and a member of HOPE AACR. As a former middle school teacher, she works well with families and children and does school presentations on various dog related topics.