We all know that it’s crucial to teach our dogs how to behave around children, as we talked about in this training post. But did you know it’s also important to teach your children how to behave around dogs? There are nearly 4.5 MILLION dog bite victims in the US every year and the vast majority of them are children. Did you also know that half of those bites are from dogs they already know?! It’s a scary realty that leaves all parties hurt, saddened, and scarred. So, we’re here to give you some pointers on how to teach children respect for dogs!
Don’t let your child pet a dog without asking the owner. Whether the dog is on a lead or running free, children should never approach a dog without permission. Some dogs don’t like children, aren’t friendly when on a leash, or something may spook them.
I was in Utah when a mom, young daughter, and their small dog walked into the dog park. The mom was on her phone and didn’t notice her daughter run across the dog park to greet and pet a pack of dogs. A large dog lunged at her and made her face bleed. It all happened so fast that an entire group of us owners didn’t know whether a tooth or claw nicked her nose. The dog owner immediately pulled his dog out of the dog park to diffuse the situation. Let me just say, I’ve seen this dog around kids before (in the dog park) and he did just fine, but something about this little girl running up to the pack spooked him. And that leads me to our next tip…
Never let your child run toward an unknown dog. As stated above, dogs may love kids, but the act of a small child running toward them may be viewed as a threat. Teach your children to calmly approach dogs (with the owners approval).
If your child sees a stray dog, have him/her avoid it at all costs. This is probably one of the scariest situations. You don’t know that dog, it’s owner, why it’s out, how it reacts to people, other dogs, children… We all want to help stray dogs, so call animal control or someone who can safely approach the dog and find it’s home.
Teach your child to never put their face in a dog’s face. This is a disaster waiting to happen! Dogs like/need their personal space just as we do. Children need to respect a dog’s personal space and keep their face at a good distance. To go a step further, have your child keep a safe distance when a dog is sleeping, eating, chewing on a bone or toy, or playing with another dog.
Help your child learn your dog’s body language and what makes him uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between excitement and nervousness. It’s up to you to teach your children the difference in body language. You could have the nicest, cuddliest, lovey dog in the entire world, but it just takes that certain something to scare him into fight or flight mode where a bite can accidently happen. So, let’s teach our kids and protect them and our dogs!
Approximately 8,000 dogs are surrendered to shelters or given away every year due to behavioral issues, including aggressiveness. Let’s lower that number by teaching children how to interact with dogs. Remember, it’s all about mutual respect.
If you’d like additional resources to help teach your children respect for dogs, here are 5 great children’s books!