Kids And Dogs: Encouraging Safe Interactions

According to the old saying, dogs are man’s best friend – but the same can’t exactly be said about dogs and children. In fact, as much as children tend to gravitate toward dogs, they’re also much more vulnerable to dog bites than adults are because they don’t understand how to safely interact with them or interpret their body language. That’s why, whether you’re considering getting your children a pet or just want to ensure that they can safely greet the animals in the neighborhood, it’s important to teach even very young children how to safely interact with dogs.

Ask First

When it comes to interacting with dogs, the most important thing to teach your children is that they should never pet a dog without asking the owner first. This is particularly true when dealing with unknown dogs, but it applies to familiar animals as well; the majority of dog bites are actually caused by animals the child knows.

In addition to asking the owner before interacting with a dog, teach your child to approach the animal slowly and to give the dog time to sniff them and initiate the interaction before the child gets any closer. It’s okay for your child to be excited, but they shouldn’t run or shout when approaching a dog.

Listen To The Dog

Just as children should learn to ask the pet owner about petting or playing with a dog before getting closer, it’s important to teach children how to listen to the dog, too. For example, children should be careful when a dog is wagging their tail, since this is not necessarily a sign that the dog is in a good mood, but rather that they are excited – and that can quickly turn into anxiety or aggression. Similarly, if a dog is growling or panting, children should be taught to back away.

Teaching Bite Prevention

Properly approaching a dog can significantly reduce the likelihood that your child will be bitten, but it’s important to recognize that dog bites are highly unpredictable and that’s what makes them so dangerous. Furthermore, the consequences can be devastating; if your child is bitten by a dog, a dog bite lawyer can help you pursue damages to cover medical care, counseling, pain and suffering, and related losses.

When it comes to preventing dog bites, one of the best skills you can teach your children is the “be a tree” technique. To be a tree, children need to take three steps: first, they should stop and stand still; second, they should pull their arms in close or “fold in their branches;” and finally, they should stand in one place – “watch their roots grow” – and count in their heads until the dog moves away. By staying very still and keeping their arms close to their bodies, children can demonstrate to the dog that they aren’t a threat and aren’t trying to play or bother them.

Stay Vigilant

The children who are most at risk of being killed by a dog bite are infants and toddlers, and attacks are more likely to be fatal when children are unsupervised, which is why children shouldn’t be left alone with dogs. On the other hand, when an adult is present, they may be able to intervene and help the child escape the situation. It’s also important to remember that any type or size of dog can attack. While certain breeds have a bad reputation, you shouldn’t relax your guard just because of your dog’s breed.

There is no way to prevent all risks of dog bites, but teaching your children how to respect animals’ personal space and understand their body language is as important as teaching them to look both ways when crossing the street or what to do in the event of a fire. There are a lot of skills that go into interacting safely with our complex world, and smart animal interactions are just one part of it.