teaching dog safety to children and kids

Teaching Dog Safety to Children

Children are, by far, the most common victims of dog bites and are far more likely to be severely injured. Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs. If the adults in the house do not recognize subtle dog body language then you can certainly bet that the children are not recognizing those signs either. Thus the dog escalates their reaction to the situation and the child ends up bitten “out of the blue”.

Children age 5-9 are the most likely dog bite victims of all. Also, be aware that 2/3 of dog bite injuries to children 4 years old and younger are to the head and neck simply because of their height in relation to the dog. In 86% of bite cases, the dog-child interaction that triggered the bite was initiated by the child.

If you are a parent, then it is very important to educate yourself on the subtle displays of body language by the dog because it is YOUR responsibility to stop any interaction between the child and dog when the dog becomes uncomfortable or stressed. If you cannot recognize the problem signs then you cannot hope to prevent a bite. It is unfair and unreasonable to expect a dog to sit around and put up with everything a young child can dish out. The adults in the room need to pay attention and practice prevention, as well as teach the child how to interact appropriately with the dog.

The dog is going to be expected to pay for its mistake with its life if the child is bitten. Educate yourself and your children, so that your family pet can remain a valued beloved member of the household rather than a bad memory for all.

One needs only look at the overwhelming majority of pictures or videos of children and dogs posted on social media to realize that most parents have not taken the time to educate themselves on dog body language cues of discomfort and stress. Over and over people are holding a camera up and filming a moment in which the dog quite obviously looks uneasy but the adults involved are either unaware or are too focused on the ‘cute’ moment to notice. No one is stopping and helping the dog out of the situation, instead, they are all laughing and pointing in apparently blissful ignorance of the dog’s elevating stress during the interaction.

Fortunately, most stressed dogs do not bite, but isn’t it more than a bit ridiculous to let the burden for the outcome of the interaction fall entirely on the dog rather than the thinking adults in the room? Of course it is. Leaving the outcome entirely to the dog is ridiculous, irresponsible, dangerous, and threatening to the life of the dog.

Children often act unpredictably, and that can lead to increased anxiety levels for the dog. It is unfair to the dog to demand that it immediately adjust to everything the child may suddenly dish out. All interactions between young children and the dog should be closely monitored by adults. Teach the child what is ok and what is not ok, and allow the dog an area that is off-limits to the children (like its crate) so that they can withdraw from interacting if they wish.

Learn more about the basics of dog bite prevention.