In so many tragic cases dog bites could have been prevented if us humans paid attention to the dog’s warning signs. More important to that, dog bites can be prevented if children adhere to a few rules and respect any dog, whether it is the family, friend or neighbour’s dog.
Try to see the situation from the dog’s perspective and you might understand why he reacts the way he does. Also, kids will be kids and they will test their boundaries, but it is crucial that they understand what they are and aren’t allowed to do, and the possible consequences of their actions.
Lesson 1 – Don’t shout and scream!
Just like people don’t like being shouted at, dogs don’t appreciate it either. They have very sensitive hearing and they will get upset with annoying, continuous, high-pitched screaming and shouting. No one likes it, not even a dog who wants to please his owners will tolerate this noise indefinitely.
Teach your child to remain calm around dogs.
Lesson 2 – No pulling and poking!
It’s no fun to be poked and neither do we like it when someone pulls our hair or pushes us around. Your dog doesn’t like it either. They also have feelings and can be hurt.
Teach your child not to pull a dog’s ears and tail or to push him around.
Lesson 3 – No hugging!
Humans love hugs, but for a dog a hug means being contained an unable to escape if needed. Have you ever seen dogs hug each other? You might think “of course not, you’re silly!”, but think about it for a moment. Most dogs don’t like hugs, we see it in their body language, but most of them tolerate it to please their owners. When your child hugs a dog, her face is very close to the dog’s face and if your dog snaps, that will be the closest area to your dog’s mouth.
Teach your child not to hug dogs – they don’t enjoy it.
Lesson 4 – Out of my face!
Children are not born with a sense of private space – parents have to teach them the socially acceptable behaviours. But dogs, on the other hand, need their personal space and they will get agitated if a child is constantly in his face.
Teach your child to respect people and pets’ personal space.
Lesson 5 – Get off!
Your dog is not a trampoline. If your child climbs on, steps on or even worse, jumps on the dog, he will be hurt and he will likely use the only defence he knows – to bite. Remember, even the most patient dogs can get to a point where they have had enough.
Teach your child to stay off the dog. He is not a trampoline or a pony (even if he is a giant breed).
Lesson 6 – Leave him alone!
Children couldn’t care less if their parents are sleeping or not – if they want attention they will wake their parents. Although parents have to tolerate it, dogs don’t enjoy being woken up. They need their sleep and they will often nap during the day. Create an area where your dog can sleep in peace and be left alone.
Teach your child to let sleeping dogs lie.
Lesson 7 – Don’t steal!
We teach our children not to take items that don’t belong to us. The same goes for stealing the dog’s toys. Explain to your child that it is wrong and that he won’t like it if someone takes his favourite toy from him.
Teach your child to leave the dog’s possessions alone.
Lesson 8 – Table manners
Dogs mostly eat on the ground and in most cases within easy access of children. Especially small children might find it tempting to play with the dog’s food or play with the dog while he is enjoying his meal. This is unfair towards the dog, as he needs to enjoy his food in peace.
Teach your child to respect the dog and his meal.
While we should teach our dogs to be more tolerant of children (early socialisation is key), you should teach your children to respect dogs and give them their personal space. Also teach children not to hurt the dog in any way and to ask owners of other dogs if they can touch the dog before they approach the dog.
There are so many fun ways in which your child can play with the dog and enjoy each other’s company, such as playing fetch or going for walks. But the most important part is to always supervise young children in the presence of dogs. Be proactive and read the warning signs to prevent a tragic incident.