Dogs can be wonderful companions for children. Both children and dogs have boundless energy, dogs can provide company to children during difficult times, and canines are simply a lot of fun for kids to play with! Unfortunately, things don’t always end well. Dog bites aren’t uncommon, and they can be serious, leaving scars for the rest of your child’s life if you aren’t careful.
It doesn’t matter if you have a dog at home, they like to play with a friend’s dog, or they see dogs walking through the park. It’s a good idea to teach your child safe ways to interact with all canines.
Don’t Approach Dogs They Don’t Know
One of the most important rules you can teach your child is not to approach a dog they don’t know. Although all dogs are cute, not all dogs are friendly. Your child needs to understand that approaching a dog they don’t know could get them in a lot of trouble.
It is especially important to teach them not to approach a dog that is not on a leash. Unfortunately, some owners like to take their dog off of the leash when going for walks, playing at the park, or even while they are in the yard, while other dogs may simply roam the neighborhood. Instruct your child to leave the dog alone and notify an adult. You or another adult can help figure out who the dog belongs to.
Sometimes it can’t be helped. If a dog on or off a leash approaches your child, teach them to stand as still and calm as possible before proceeding with some of the other tips on this list.
Ask the Owner if There’s a Dog They Want To Pet
Just because you shouldn’t approach a dog you don’t know doesn’t mean your child shouldn’t interact with other people’s dogs!
Teach your child not to approach other dogs, but to ask their owner if it’s okay to pet the dog instead. Some dogs may be friendly towards children and it won’t be a problem. In other cases, they may have a dog breed that isn’t friendly towards children, and by asking, they give the owner the opportunity to say no.
It’s especially important to teach your child to ask before petting a service animal. Many owners don’t want their animals petted while they’re on the job, so asking teaches your child respect. It also enables them to avoid an uncomfortable situation.
Extend Your Hand Before Petting a Dog
If they are given permission to pet a dog, teach your child to extend their hand before petting the animal. Just because they want to pet the dog doesn’t mean the dog wants to be petted! By extending their hand, they are giving the dog the opportunity to decide whether or not he wants attention from a stranger. It teaches your child to respect animals, and it also avoids potential problems. If the dog turns away, it’s a good idea to leave him alone.
Teach Doggy Manners
Just because your child has permission to interact with a dog and he reacts positively to an extended hand doesn’t mean their interaction will automatically be positive. It’s important for your child to know doggy manners to avoid getting scratched or bitten.
A few doggy manners to teach your child include:
- Don’t make eye contact with a dog they don’t know until they interact with the dog and know it’s friendly.
- Pay attention to the dog’s body language, as something like a tucked tail can demonstrate fear.
- Always approach a dog with calm energy, no matter how he acts.
- Kneel down or sit on the ground when interacting with a dog you are unfamiliar with.
- Don’t chase after a dog that runs away.
- Pay attention to the dog’s body language when you pet him and stop if he stiffens up or growls.
Bring the Dog Treats
It’s important for children to know that it’s their job and the job of the dog’s owner to ensure the animals feels safe and happy. One of the best ways to do that is to give the dog a treat!
If your child knows they are going to a friend’s house, have them bring along a treat. Have a box at home so your child can give treats to the neighbors’ dogs. Just make sure you check with the dogs’ owners to ensure it’s okay for your child to give their pooches a snack or dog treats.
Make Sure There’s an Adult Present
Even the friendliest dogs can behave badly. It could be a sound or a movement that makes them uncomfortable, or something like a squirrel in the front yard or someone riding down the sidewalk on a skateboard. Because dogs can be unpredictable, it’s important to tell your child to hang out with a dog only when there is another adult present.
That includes making sure they have supervision when hanging out with someone else’s dog, but it also means making sure a parent or another adult is around when hanging out with a family dog. It can prevent accidents and it can ensure both the child and the dog get help quickly if something does go wrong.
Don’t Interact With a Dog if You Aren’t Comfortable
One of the best things you can teach your child is to avoid interacting with any dog that they feel uncomfortable with.
Dogs are very intuitive. They can literally smell fear and anxiety. If your child feels scared or nervous to interact with a dog, that animal is likely to act differently. It’s much better for your child to avoid interacting with any animal that makes them nervous.
Although it may seem that interacting with a dog should be intuitive, that definitely isn’t the case. There are many tips and rules that adults should follow, and those rules and tips should be passed along to children. That way you can reduce the chances of biting and scratching incidents.