Many children love dogs and look forward to any opportunity to pet, play with, and run around with furry pets. However, children can easily become the victim of a dog bite or attack, which can scar them forever both physically and emotionally. Teaching children how to behave around strange dogs can help them feel more confident and reduce the likelihood of a dog bite or attack.
How Parents Can Help Their Children Stay Safe
Small children may be comfortable around dogs, but should never be left unaccompanied around a strange dog or a family dog that has any tendency toward aggression. Always stay with your child when he or she greets an unfamiliar dog, and control the situation with the dog’s owner until you both feel comfortable that the dog and child can play together respectfully.
Familiar and unfamiliar dogs should not be allowed in a baby’s room or a toddler’s room without direct supervision. As much as you love and trust your dog, you cannot anticipate what a new arrival may do to his or her disposition, and small children are not equipped to play or control a dog of any size.
Never let children play with dogs in inappropriate ways. Hitting, pulling, dragging, or dressing up a dog can be stressful for the canine companion and lead to aggression. It also teaches children that it is okay to treat animals disrespectfully.
Contact the humane society or animal control if you notice strange dogs in the neighborhood and report owners who are not being responsible by leaving their pets outside of the home unsupervised. A friendly dog that wants to jump and play can be as frightening as an aggressive experience if a child is not prepared to handle the interaction.
Teach Children How to Approach New Dogs
Unfamiliar dogs may be very sweet under normal circumstances but may have a difficult time understanding the conflicting cues sent out by young children. When children are empowered with the right way to behave, everyone can interact with neighborhood dogs safely, and dog owners and parents can avoid difficult situations. Encourage children to:
- Ask permission before approaching a strange dog. Regardless of a previous relationship with a dog or owner, a child should always ask permission before playing with a pet. It is respectful and allows an owner to provide any additional information to the parent and child about using safe behaviors with a particular dog’s personality.
- Remain confident around aggressive dogs. Children who understand how to engage with an aggressive dog can avoid life-threatening injuries. Teach them to walk away slowly, not run, if they are confronted but not attacked. Anyone should stand still and quiet when a dog attacks, instead of screaming, flailing, or exposing vulnerable body parts. Often, using an arm can help redirect a dog away from the head, neck, or torso. Instruct them to cover their neck and roll into a ball if they cannot remain standing.
- Only be around dogs if they are calm and confident. Dogs can feel anxiety and excessive energy. Children should avoid running, making quick movements, or hitting dogs in play. Even in play, dogs that become over-excited can cause painful and scarring injury.
- Avoid teasing or bothering a dog during certain times. Tell children to avoid playing in or around a dog’s crate or chasing after a dog that doesn’t want to play. Playing by taking toys or pretending to hit a dog may also encourage bad behavior in both the child and the dog.
Building positive experiences around dogs can be very healthy and rewarding for a child, but parents should always be in control of the situation. If you or your child is ever bitten by a dog, contact a competent dog bite attorney to help you get the compensation you deserve.