Well-socialized, happy, and good behavioral dogs can add so much joy to our lives and to our families. Dogs provide companionship, fun, and tons of puppy kisses! They also teach our children about responsibility and caring for others. However, the world is full of risks and it is important to learn major concerns about child and dog safety. Even the most docile dog can snap if you are not careful. You and your family can take simple steps to reduce those dangerous situations. The following guide will help to keep your family and pets from being placed in a comprising position.

The Relationship Between Dogs and Children

Dogs have a unique relationship with adults and kids. It is important to understand that in the dogs mind the family is a pack and everyone in that family has a certain ‘role’ in the pack. For most families, one or both of the parents are considered the leaders of the pack and the dog is subordinate to them. So, when small children are involved, most dogs consider the children to be equal or even lower in the pack hierarchy than they are and that is where issues come from.

With this being said, the dog may refuse to obey the child’s commands or play roughly. It could even escalate to growling when the child is near their food or toys. It is important for parents to understand this relationship to take the precautions to prevent problems. Here are some helpful solutions for dog safety with kids.

The dog runs into the child by ‘accident’ and possibly knocks them down.

Solutions:

  • Recognize when the behavior usually happens and teach the dog to lay down and stay in place.
  • Put the dog in a different room or outside when the children are practicing their walking.
  • Teach the child to tell the dog to sit when the dog gets rowdy.
The dog growls or snaps at the child.

Solutions:

  • Apply strict obedience training for zero tolerance of dog aggression.
  • Eliminate the source of conflict such as the food bowl or the dog toy.
  • Make a ‘safe zone’ for the dog so when they want to be left alone they can go into that place.
The dog jumps on the child.

Solutions:

  • Don’t ever allow your dog to jump on anyone for any reason.
  • Teach the child to turn the hip toward the dog when they jump so they don’t get hurt.
  • If possible, train the dog a young age to prevent this behavior.
The dog steals the child’s food or starts growling at them.

Solutions:

  • Move the dog out of the kitchen when the child is eating
  • Have a bag of dog treats to discourage the dog from table food.
  • Work on obedience training.

Supervision Is Critical

Do you ever see those awful pictures or stories online of young children that have been bit by dogs? Many people think they are so lucky to have a dog that loves their kids. However, a majority of dog bites happen to children by dogs that are familiar with them. Everyone says that kids and dogs should never be left unsupervised. While that’s great advice, supervision is only effective when you know what to look for and when to interfere. Believe it or not, most people don’t know.

In order to truly supervise kids and dogs, not only do you need to know dog behavior, but you also need to know about kid behavior. Once you know how to read body language in dogs and kids, you’ll be able to take the appropriate precautions for dog safety so your family can have a happy, safe, and fun relationship. So, as a parent what can you do?

  1. Always watch the interactions carefully between dogs and children.

Most people will take this as just being in the room, but what this means is that you’re actually watching when they’re near each other. If you are unable to supervise them carefully, they should be separated.

  1. Reading dog behavior is beneficial to know when to separate kids and dogs.

Dog body language is a great thing to learn and know because it will let you know when your dog feels uncomfortable and when to pull them away from each other. Things like the dog’s posture, eyes, mouth, ears, and tail will indicate when they aren’t comfortable with the situation. We’ll discuss more about dog body language later in this article.

  1. Don’t punish your dog around the child.

The worst thing you can do is punish the dog when the child is around. Not only can you scare the child, but the dog will associate punishment every time a child is around. This can increase fear, stress, and emotions that you don’t want associated with that relationship.

Important Behaviors to Teach Your Kid About Handling Dogs

Safe interactions between kids and dogs are what every parent wants. You may be teaching your dog to be kid-friendly, but have you trained your children too? Many young children, especially toddlers, don’t realize that pets are living animals and not toys. This is why all children should be taught how to handle pets properly so there are no injuries to the child or to the pet.

Even if you do not have a dog at home, your child should still learn how to act around dogs. Many children are naturally drawn to pets, but without the proper knowledge, kids may not know how to behave in order to keep themselves safe. Here are some important behaviors to teach your kids about dog safety by respecting dogs and protecting themselves.

Approaching Dogs
  1. Children should never approach a dog without permission first. The dog owner must always be aware if your child is going to pet the dog. Some dogs might not be great with children, so it’s always safer to ask beforehand.
  2. If the dog seems anxious, stressed, or fearful, your child should never go up to the dog. You can usually tell these behaviors by their body language, which we will talk about later in this article.
  3. Children should never run towards a dog. If the owner gives permission, approach the dog slowly.
  4. When you approach the dog, hold out the back of your hand slowly toward their nose. Let them sniff you to feel more comfortable. 
General Behavior Around Dogs
  1. Never pull on a dog’s ear or tail.
  2. Avoid hugging dogs. This can make them feel scared or uncomfortable. Also, your head is dangerously near their bite zone.
  3. Try not to put your face near their face. This could be an invasion of their personal space and they could feel threatened.
  4. Kids should never yell or scream around dogs. The noise could potentially scare or excite them, which could lead to biting or scratching.
Petting Dogs
  1. When being around dogs, children might not know that loud yelling can trigger a dog. Kids should always talk in a soft, gentle tone that will keep the dog at ease.
  2. Start by gently scratching the dogs chin or chest. When the dog is tolerating this, you can gently scratch their neck and back.
  3. Stop petting the dog if they back away, growl, or shows signs of panic or fear.

Know the Doggy Language

Dogs can’t communicate their feelings with us through words, so we have to learn how to understand them through their body language. We often expect them to learn how to interact with us, yet we do so little to learn how to understand them. This could lead to misinterpreting their language, which can be dangerous not only to those around them, but also to the dog. Let’s take a look at some common body languages dogs use to tell us how they are feeling.

  1. Fear
  • Dogs will cower down and try to look smaller.
  • Their ears will be pinned back and their eyes will look alert.
  • They may possibly show teeth.
  • Tail will be tucked down or dog may back away.
  • Dog may growl while showing teeth. 
  1. Aggressiveness
  • This is often based on fear and the dog is not happy with the situation. Do not challenge the dog and walk away when seeing this behavior.
  • Dogs will try to make themselves look big and their hair will stand on their back.
  • Body might be stiff and their tail will stick straight out or down.
  • Might be in a lunging stance if they feel threatened.
  1. Happy / Playful
  • Eyes will be bright and happy and their mouth slightly open but teeth covered.
  • Dog may be bouncy, circling, yipping, or jumping in excitement.
  • Dog might playfully bark and play-bow. (lower front end and wag tail)
  1. Stressed
  • Body will be lowered.
  • Pupils dilated.
  • Rapid panting with corner of mouth back.
  • Sweating through paw pads.