Published On: Mon, Sep 9th, 2019

How to Teach Your Children to Behave Around Dogs

Most of the time, children love dogs. They’re fascinated by their soft, furry, and highly mobile bodies and their friendly, wagging tails.

Not all dogs love children, however, and not all children know how to keep their distance, or recognize when they should. This is especially common among children who don’t have a dog at home, understandably.

As a result, their parents may be unaware of the risks associated with a neighbor’s dog. That canine next door may be friendly to you, but might still nip at your child because the little one doesn’t understand and appreciate the behavior of the four-legged resident.

Sometimes, the canine’s more aggressive side may be drawn out, and unfortunately culminate in a dangerous dog attack. Certainly, pet owners have a responsibility to train their dogs to play nicely with humans, and restrain them when there’s any doubt, but you should also work with your children to teach them safe and responsible behavior around others’ dogs.

Here are some tips for keeping children safe around domesticated animals.

Visit a Local Pet Store 

Kids normally have no idea how to interact with a dog if they haven’t been around one regularly. You may not want a pooch in your house at this point, so the alternative is to go to a controlled environment where kids can spend time in the company of canines, such as a pet store or dog park.

Not only will the interactions help your kids learn how to act around large and small dogs, but this can also help them overcome any fear they might have, which can otherwise fuel an animal’s aggression.

“When kids don’t know if a dog will try to lick their face or push them over, they feel out of control,” explains an article from HuffPost.com. “Letting your daughter watch puppies from behind a barrier will help her feel safe, while helping desensitize her to their wiggly, unpredictable movements.” 

Many pet stores offer classes for dog safety and training to help kids and adults alike master how to care for their furry friends without startling them.

Establish Doggy Danger 

Most kids have a sense of “stranger danger,” in which they sensibly respond to unknown adults with wariness. However, they may lack the same sense with dogs.

Especially if they’ve only encountered nice dogs in the past, children may not know the protocol for interacting with a new animal. Teach your children to be wary of wandering, unknown dogs.

Show them pictures of dogs covered in fleas or that appear insufficiently cared-for compared with a well-loved dog. This will help them establish some of the differences between dogs that may feel threatened by humans and act out, versus those that are more likely to welcome a child’s touch.

It’s also worthwhile to call animal control if you spot an apparent stray. These creatures should be taken off the streets for their safety as well as that of your children.

Instruct Kids to Ask 

After establishing the difference between potentially safe and dangerous pets, talk to your kids about the importance of asking permission of a pet owner before they approach a dog. It’s never safe to assume an owned pet is a well-behaved one — at least with strange humans.

Many dogs feel threatened by children and will act out aggressively. Tell your little ones what to say when they want to touch a dog, such as, “Excuse me, sir. Can I please pet your dog?” Role-play the situation at home and/or ask a neighbor who owns a pet to participate in the exercise to help your children become comfortable with it.

You should also explain the difference between a pet and a service dog. It’s crucial that children ask the owner of a service dog before touching the animal, because it’s not necessarily a welcome act. Certain protocols govern service dogs; they are performing a job and mustn’t be distracted.

Watch Your Toddlers and Babies 

You can instruct older children and usually expect them to obey, but the same can’t be said for toddlers and babies. They require strict supervision around pets: 88 percent of dog attacks on two-year-olds result from unsupervised interaction, according to the National Canine Research Foundation.

Small dogs are especially likely to feel threatened by smaller children. Toddlers sometimes act out aggressively toward dogs the same size or larger than they are without even meaning to. Your toddler or infant can inadvertently appear to be a threat to a small dog, which may respond by growling, nipping, or snapping.

Careful supervision and detailed training could be lifesaving in terms of your children’s interactions with canines. Be sensitive to the temperaments of dogs around your child, and his or her specific needs during these encounters. You can never be too careful when dogs are nearby.

Author: Anna Johansson

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