Dogs and kids, it’s a combination that at its best can be the stuff of childhood dreams. At its worst, it can be a source of heartache and pain, and even injury. How can you ensure that your child and Man’s Best Friend has a loving and safe relationship? Mostly, it’s the responsibility of the adults of the house to teach toddlers and even older children that a dog is not a toy. It’s a living, breathing creature that feels pain, shame, and humiliation as much as love, pride, and happiness. A dog that bites a child may only be defending itself the only way it knows how. But to minimize ever having to worry about a parent’s worst nightmare, family animal psychologist, Larry Lachman, M.S., offers the following advice:
SAFETY PREVENTION TIPS TO TEACH YOUR CHILD:
Do NOT reach for a dog’s head the first time they meet a dog nor excessively rough house around their own dog’s head and face.
Do NOT look a dog straight in the eyes, which could be seen as a threat or challenge by the dog.
Do NOT run up frantically to a dog, which may react fearfully and defend itself or jump and bite at the child’s face.
Do NOT scream loudly at a dog, which could stress a dog or startle it, causing an aggressive response.
Do NOT bother the dog while it is eating or chewing on a chew toy, which could trigger an aggressive guarding response, especially if the child is under seven years of age, where he/she is looked at by the dog as a competing animal in the pack.
Do NOT hit, kick, slap, ride, or tease the dog in any manner.
Do NOT leave the child and dog alone until the child is older than 7, and can control its impulses.
Adults Should Take The Time…
To show the child HOW TO POSITIVELY interact and pet the dog under direct supervision.
To show the child how to be a junior dog trainer, and get the dog to sit with a treat, under parental supervision.
To only give the dog attention when the child is also receiving attention, so the dog makes a better association with the child.
Following these tips will minimize conflict and teach your child to respect your dog and treat her as a member of the family.