How to keep children safe around dogs

Children and dogs can make excellent companions for each other. With a little preparation they can have great fun together and become best of friends.

However, it’s important to remember that your dog doesn’t think, understand and communicate in the same way we do. Children should never be left unsupervised with any dog, whether at home or out on a walk – regardless of the breed or how well they know them.

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Creating a dog- and child-friendly home

Keep dog toys out of your dog’s reach so they learn they can only play at the invitation of an adult. Make sure your children tidy their toys away so your dog knows not to play with them.

Teach your children to respect your dog’s physical and emotional welfare. They shouldn’t tease your dog, pull their fur or tail, or take their food away from them.

Always make sure your dog has a safe area where they can have some quiet time alone away from the children.

Dogs and toddlers

Your dog still needs peace and quiet sometimes; allow him a place to escape to. If friends’ children come to visit make sure the dog can escape to his safe den if he needs to.

Toddlers won’t be able to read a dog’s body language and toddlers are quite unpredictable for the dog. Beware of a sudden grab, impulsive hug or a twisted ear. Toddlers can easily lose their balance and fall on a sleeping dog! Don’t expect your dog to put up with pulled ears just because he is tolerant.

Dogs are fight or flight animals. They will usually try to get away if unhappy, but if this is not an option then fight is what’s left to them. Try not to let things get this far, signs of an unhappy dog include; yawning, lip licking, ears back, trying to get away, growling, snapping and showing teeth.

Teach your children from day one that the dog is not a toy. Children should never approach a sleeping, eating, unwell or tired dog. The dog and the child need to respect each other’s space.

Teach your dog manners so that when your toddler starts to crawl/walk, the dog doesn’t try and barge through doorways or upstairs first.

Help them stay safe around dogs

Many children love seeing dogs when they’re out and about - but sometimes dogs can mistake their friendliness for aggression. Teach them these simple rules to help keep your children safe:

  • Always ask the owner before approaching, stroking or playing with a dog
  • Never rush up to a dog, be calm and make slow movements so you don’t frighten him
  • Hold out your hand and let him come to you. If he doesn’t want to come, leave him alone
  • Don’t stare directly into a dog’s eyes
  • If a dog growls at you or seems aggressive, stay calm and slowly walk away
  • If a dog is eating, drinking, sleeping or tied up, you should leave him alone

If you’d like more help keeping your children safe around your dog, we run family dog workshops near you.