All too frequently, we hear about severe and even fatal dog attacks on young children.
Young children are at the greatest risk of being bitten by their own dog or a friend’s dog in or around their own home. Any dog can bite, even the most laid back and trustworthy. A dog may bite because it is scared and all its warning signals have been ignored. An easy-going dog may also bite if it is woken from a sleep and is disorientated and a dog that is great around the house may be very protective of its food or toys and bite if a child tries to take these away.
Here some tips to help minimise the risk of children being bitten by dogs:
1. Teach them they must ask the owner of the dog for permission before they pat a dog.
2. Never approach a dog that is eating or chewing a bone.
Dogs can become very protective of their food and children must be taught that this is private time for a dog and they must be left alone.
3. Never wake a sleeping dog as this may frighten him and they may bite as a result.
4. Don’t let children play chasings with dogs.
Children get excited and squeal and this causes dogs to get wound up and excited and they can easily knock children over.
5. ALWAYS supervise young children with dogs, even those you know.
Children often treat a dog as they would a toy and pull their tail and ears. Young children do not understand if they are hurting an animal.
6. Teach your children basic rules such as not to pick up a dog or pat them on the face.
Children need to know that there are certain times when touching the dog is out of bounds.
7. Seek professional help if necessary.
If your dog growls at children or is protective of its food or toys, seek advice from veterinary behaviourist. These issues can often be stopped if managed early but can become serious if allowed to continue. It is not worth the risk and will help give you peace of mind.
Safety tips to teach your child at around 2–3 years of age
With dogs they don’t know, tell them to:
8. Always ask permission from the owner before slowly approaching an unfamiliar dog.
9. Approach a dog slowly, with the back of the hand extended.
10. Curl their fingers and allow the dog to sniff them.
11. Stroke the dog gently on the chest, shoulder, or under the chin. Never pat it on the head.
12. Avoid eye contact with the dog.
13. Stand still if being approached by a strange dog.
14. Do not squeal, run, or jump.
For approaching all dogs tell your child to:
15. Avoid approaching dogs that are sleeping, eating, caring for puppies, unwell or injured, or in their beds or kennel.
16. Always let a dog see you and sniff you before patting it.
17. Never play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
18. Never yell at or surprise a dog, not even the family pet.
19. Never pull a dog’s tail or ears, or jump on, or kick a dog.
20. Roll into a ball and lie still and quiet if knocked over by a dog.
When are dogs more likely to attack children? Dogs are likely to attack a child if:
- Approached when eating.
- Approached when sleeping.
- Startled by sudden movements.
- Woken suddenly.
- Cornered and scared.
- Jumped on and climbed over.
- They have their ears or tails pulled, or are poked or hit.
- They are looking after puppies.
- They have been cooped up in a hot car.
- They are unwell or injured.
- They are not properly trained.
Preventing dog attacks and bites
The most effective way to minimise the risk is to always make sure that young children (your own, and other people’s) are supervised around the dog; otherwise, separate the dog from the children when supervision is not possible.
It is important to always reinforce this when visiting relatives and friends. It is important to create dog-free zones for young children, and child-free zones for a dog.