Many children find themselves fascinated with dogs. Boys and girls see dogs as huggable friends that are wonderfully furry and cute. But the truth is that not all dogs should be approached by children. It is important to teach children how to show respect for dogs, and to make sure they know that every dog has a unique personality and temperament. Educating children about dogs will seriously lessen the possibility that they could be attacked by one.
Breeds and Temperaments
Each breed of dog has been shown to display specific personality traits or temperaments. However, avoid examining the traits of a breed and judging the dog solely based on what the breed is known to be like. Each individual dog has its own temperament, which is its attitude or personality. For example, dogs that are classified as a working breed are known to be active, as opposed to still and quiet, but that doesn’t mean every working breed dog will be that way.
Choosing the Right Dog
Choosing the right dog to be around your children involves more than just considering its size and grooming requirements. The temperament of the dog is very important. For example, you may want to choose a dog that is calm and peaceful dog that won’t accidentally harm your young children. On the other hand, if you have older children, a fun, active dog may be just what the doctor ordered.
Also consider how easy the dog is going to be to train. If he is a big dog and can’t stop jumping on people, this may not be a good fit for smaller children. Also consider if the dog can be considered to be a dominant dog. Dogs that try to be dominant over their owners are not a good fit for children. On the other hand, dogs that are too submissive may become frightened of noisy children and may nip at them as a result.
Dog Safety at Home
Even dogs who are friendly may bite if they feel they are driven to. Here are some things to teach your child when dealing with their pet dog, according to Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS.
- Dogs should not be interrupted when they are eating. This especially includes children sticking their hands in the dog’s food.
- Children be taught to never steal the dog’s toys away from them.
- Getting in a dog’s face may annoy the dog.
- Leave the dog alone if it looks like it wants to be alone or is sleeping.
- Children should avoid being rough when touching the dog. They should never be allowed to climb or step onto the dog.
- Dogs have very sensitive ears, and screaming doesn’t make them happy.
Dog Safety in Public
The American Kennel Club offers several important suggestions for children, regarding how to approach and be with dogs.
Let’s say you and your child are out on a walk and you come across someone walking their dog. The first reaction some children take is to run up to the dog and start petting it, which is a mistake. It is important to teach children to instead walk over slowly to the dog’s owner and ask for permission to pet the dog. If the owner seems concerned about her dog not liking it, your child should calmly and politely accept this no.
If the dog owner says yes, the AKC recommends that you begin by curling your hand in a closed fist with the back of your hand facing upward. Then slowly extend your hand to the dog. Allow the dog to sniff the back of your hand. Now, it is safe to pet the dog gently under the chin or on the chest.
Dealing With Loose Dogs
Although dogs should be kept on leashes while in a public place, at some point it is likely that your child will encounter a dog that isn’t. It is important to teach your child never to approach or try to pet a loose dog or a dog that doesn’t have an owner. But, what about if the dog approaches your child?
The AKC instructs children to “stand very still like a tree,” and to cross your arms over your chest. Next, look away from the dog. This is because dogs see direct eye contact as a challenge for control and power, which is definitely not what you want.
Teach your child the signs of a threatening dog. One of these is a wrinkled nose that draws back to reveal its teeth. Another is that its body may look tense and ready for action. Hair along the back of its neck may be raised, which forms a long column along the spine. His ears may be pinned back and he may growl or snarl.
The child should be taught to never run to, or away from a dog they don’t know. After becoming still like a tree, they should slowly and quietly back away from the dog. Next, they should tell an adult right away about the dog. From this point, an animal shelter can be called if the dog is friendly, and if it is not, the adult should call animal control.