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Teach children to be safe around dogs

I don’t have my own kids (just a needy mutt and a very prissy cat), but I bring up the issue of children and dogs because there are so many preschool and grade school aged kids in my apartment complex. They have no fear or respect for animals. They obviously have dogs of their own and run up to any dog, sticking their faces in the dog’s face.

According to, 77 percent of dog-bite injuries to children are to the face. The most frequent attacks in the United States are to boys between the ages of 6 and 9, with the odds of a child being the bite victim at 3.2 to 1.

Kids need to know how to act around dogs. They need to know all dogs are not friendly and some will bite. They also need to know even their own dogs can bite. When a child under age 4 is bitten, the family dog is the attacker 47% of the time, according to Ninety percent of these attacks occur in the family’s home.

Things children should know about how to act around dogs:

1. Remain calm around dogs.
Children should be taught not to yell or scream around a dog and to move slowly. Excitement could scare a dog. And all that extra energy will put the dog in a highly energetic state, too. This is when problems happen. Either the dog will get excited, jump on the child, unintentionally push the child over or bite if the dog is aggressive or playing too roughly. Have you ever had a group of children running towards you and your dog screaming, “Look! A dog!” I know I have.

2. Always ask the owner before touching a dog.
Some dogs just aren’t friendly, and children should be taught never to assume otherwise.

3. Do not put your face near a dog.
This is a hard one for kids because they are closer to eye level with dogs, especially big dogs. More children are bitten in the face than adults for this reason. Fortunately, most dogs are more likely to give a child kisses than a bite, but sometimes even playful licking can turn into a nip.

4. Don’t make eye contact with a dog.
Animals sometimes interpret eye contact as a challenge, making them more likely to act out with either dominant or fearful aggression.

5. Leave a dog alone while it is eating.
Many times it is the child’s responsibility to feed the family pets. This might be OK, as long as the child understands not to bother the dog after she has her food.

6. Leave a dog alone if she is sleeping.
A dog can easily become startled if she is suddenly woken up. The initial reaction is sometimes to nip.

7. Little dogs can bite, too.
In my experience, little dogs are actually more likely to bite than a big dog. It’s just that the injury will not be as severe. Children should be aware that little dogs may be cute, but they are often aggressive.

8. Don’t run away from a dog.
Running from a dog will only bring out its instincts to chase. Instead, children should know it’s better to slowly back away from a dog.

Can you think of anything else children should be aware of? Do you have any bad experiences with children and dogs?

What dog training mistakes have you made?
Breed profile: Labrador retriever