Tutu’s Corner: Dog Safety

Community Contributed

Column by Tutu and Me Traveling Preschool

How can you be sure that a dog will be a safe pet for your children? Statistics show that most dog bites causing serious injury involve medium to large sized dogs and children under the age of 5. The dog is usually known to the child or is the family’s pet.

A dog’s basic temperament, instincts, and training have the biggest effects on how that dog reacts to the world around him and his levels of tolerance. Very few bites happen without provocation – but the provocation may exist only in the dog’s mind!

Small children should never be left alone with any dog, no matter how reliable the dog has been before. A responsible adult needs to be on the scene to prevent any aggressive behavior by the dog and to keep the child from putting him or herself in danger. A dog may not want to be petted. The dog’s first instinctive reaction is to show his displeasure by giving a warning by growling. Walking away can also be considered a warning. Some warnings are more subtle – a stiffening of the body, for example. Few dogs bite without giving some indication beforehand. Small children (and some adults) don’t recognize a warning when they see or hear one. A very young child under age 6 doesn’t know what a growl means.

If the dog has tried to leave or has issued a warning with no response from the child, the dog (in his mind) has no other recourse – he bites. Running, playing, screaming kids can trigger an instinctive predator-prey reaction in some dogs. Children who rough house and wrestle with dogs unknowingly encourage them to use their teeth. Startling a sleeping dog or petting him when he’s eating can also provoke a bite.

Try this at home
• Obedience training (even for puppies) and socialization for a dog spending time with children. The dog needs to be taught to obey commands under all conditions, no matter how distracting.
• Teach children how to touch the dog properly, how to interpret the dog’s body language, and when the dog is not to be disturbed.
• Teach kids to ask the owner if the dog is friendly and if it’s okay to pet them and how to play only appropriate games with the dog.
• Practice “stand like a tree” and “lie like a log” for strange or unleashed dogs.
• When other children visit make sure that these children obey your ground rules.

Kids and dogs are wonderful together – when adults use common sense and put safety first.


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