Photo courtesy of nbcnews.com
Dogs can add so much to your home and family life. But keeping your family and kids safe is the number one priority. Dog management, training and preventing dog bites can help to ensure that your children will be able to experience the pure joy that can come from having a dog in your family for many, many years.
Supervision and Managing the Space
An important part of keeping your kids safe around dogs is to set rules and physical boundaries. For example, dogs and small children should never be left together unsupervised.
If you are unable to supervise, consider using easy tools like baby gates, crates or a leash tether to prevent the dog and the children from interacting. If you have a very active dog, be sure to give him something to entertain himself while restricted, like a stuffed Kong toy or long-lasting chew bone.
Training foundation manners in your dog are essential when it comes to family safety. A dog that jumps on people, pushes past you through an open door, bolts out of the car and chews on baby’s toys not only endangers their own life, but also creates a safety risk for the family. (Just think of stepping on the sharp, gnawed edges of a Duplo. Yikes!)
Teaching your dog polite manners, like Sit, Stay, Wait, Leave It and greeting people politely will help teach your dog to respect boundaries in the household, personal space and belongings. A positive oriented basic obedience class, or private training lessons, can help with teaching your dog these imperative skills.
Preventing Dog Bites
Dogs speak a different language than humans and can often interpret the well-intended actions of humans as actually being a threat. Examples of this include hugging, hovering over and pulling on dogs’ tails or ears. Unlike humans, dogs don’t enjoy being hugged. (They can be taught to tolerate it over time, but they don’t naturally enjoy it.) Any movement over a dog’s head or around their back might be interpreted as threatening, overwhelming or simply too close for comfort. Although it might be tempting to tug at a dog’s tail or ears, many dogs are sensitive about these areas and may not be completely comfortable with it.
A better-received approach is to bend down at the knees (instead of at the waist) and, at a sideways angle, calmly pet a dog on their chest or under their chin. A good practice is to have children ask the owner of a dog if they can pet him or her. The dog’s owner always appreciates this, and they’ll be impressed by such polite manners!
Other ways to prevent bites involve avoiding dogs while they are eating, playing with their toys and resting. Remember the old saying, “Let sleeping dogs lie?” Dogs, like humans, can be easily startled out of sleep. A dog that is awoken suddenly – by an unexpected touch or loud noise – may be startled and disoriented and may react unfavorably.
Lastly, here are some wonderful and fun resources that will help you to teach your children how to interact appropriately and safely with dogs in your home, as well as with other dogs.
• Website: TheFamilyDog.com
• Website: DoggoneSafe.com
• Illustration: “How Not to Greet a Dog” by Lily Chin
• Kids’ Book: “Don’t Lick the Dog” by Wendy Wahman