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 dogbitelaw.com, 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 dogbitelaw.com. 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?

16 thoughts on “Teach children to be safe around dogs”

  1. Hi Lindsay,

    How do you find the time to write so many uselful tips so often!

    This is really great advice.

    But some dogs don’t have a single mean bone in their bodies. I know this is the case with Amigo, my golden. I can honestly say I would trust him to babysit my newborn babe.

    I don’t know what it is about golden retrievers. At least, this is the case with Amigo.

    Anyway, I’m so glad I subscribed to this blog. I’m learning a lot!

    Mayra Calvani’s last blog post..On the Spotlight: Beverly Stowe McClure

  2. Lindsay Stordahl

    Most dogs aren’t mean at all. But when you don’t know the dog, it’s not always esay to tell. I’ve never seen an aggressive golden, but I’ve seen some that were extremely shy and unsocialized.

  3. castocreations

    Excellent! My husband is so paranoid about kids coming up to our dogs. Not that we think our dogs will do anything but we don’t trust the kids. I try to do my part by guiding a kid who is obviously unaware of how to approach a dog. Hopefully I can prevent a bite or two with the tips I give these kids. *sigh*

    castocreations’s last blog post..Wordless Wednesday – Happy Agility Dog

  4. Great article (as always). This one is near and dear to my heart. Brutus and I did bite prevention classes for the local elementary kids. It is amazing to me how many adults forget these tips and how many children are not taught to respect strange animals.

    One tip you may want to add is not to rely on the dogs tail. A wagging tail does not always mean a happy dog. Tail wagging is actually the release of excitement whether it good excitement or bad. People need to learn the basic dog “body language” as well. Learning not to “invite a bite” is very important and will prevent alot of needless injuries.

  5. thanks so much for posting about this! i think it is very important. i’ve noticed that children are often attracted to puppies (understandably) but puppies are often teething or overly curious and tend to nip and jump. i know i turned away many a disappointed kid when stranger was a puppy because he tended to jump, which made the kid scream or yelp which in turn made stranger scared and unstable!

    K9 Amiga’s last blog post..Dogs & Divorce

  6. Excellent post and great feedback from readers Lindsay… I’m working at the moment with teens, Ive asked them to ignore Chels till I say, the main problem with this age group is over enthusiasm… they all want 100% play time, and I need to explain she is a pup who gets tired and irritable…

    with children in general, they throw and wave their arms, which encourages Chelsea to jump, girls especial do this and squeal and Chels excitement level goes through the roof…

    I now have a no pat policy with strangers…I just say shes in training…

    abbey’s last blog post..Wind Chill Rocks

  7. I’ve had adults come up to me and start to reach towards my dog without asking, I usually stop them before they get too far, and tell them he is nervous around strangers and could bite. It always amazes me how stupid people can be. There are so many people who continue to reach down toward him after I’ve stopped them and when Charlie lifts his lips they jump back and say something like “Oh my!” Seriously. I warned you…

    I saw this pop up on the side of the screen and I had literly just been charged by two little girls earlier this week. They were running down a hill towards me and Charlie yelling “Puppy! Puppy!” You could clearly see Charlie was stressing out and they were a ways away.

    I ended up turning and jogging in the opposite direction because even though it would have been good for charlie to be around kids, It would have made it worse for these kids who were obviously excited and charging at my dog, so I decided it would be best to turn away so no one got hurt.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      People of all ages don’t seem to know how to read a dog’s body language. I walk several dogs that could potentially snap at people. These dogs show the general signs of uncertainty by backing away, ears back, crouching away, etc., and people still lean forward to pet the dog (while putting their face at the dog’s level). I constantly have to tell grown men and women not to pet “my” dog.

      1. I don’t understand it, even before I ever had a dog I loved them, but I never ran up to them and I always asked to pet the dog even if they came right up to me.

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