Child Safety Week: keeping children safe around dogs
With Child Safety Week beginning on Monday 5 June, Battersea is offering advice to parents on how to keep their children safe around dogs.
Ali Taylor, Head of Canine Behaviour and Training at Battersea says, “Keeping your child safe is paramount to parents at any time of year. But as the weather gets warmer and we spend more time out and about and at friends’ houses this summer, it’s likely children will come across more dogs in the coming months.
“While every dog is different, there are a few simple tips parents can follow when spending time with the pets of family and friends, or ones they meet in the park, to help keep their children out of harm’s way.”
Battersea’s tips to help keep your children safe around dogs:
- Teach them the importance of giving dogs their quiet time
When scared, uncomfortable or overwhelmed, a dog’s natural instinct is to move away from the person or thing worrying them. When this happens, encourage your child not to follow them and let them take a bit of ‘me’ time to rest and destress. Consider installing a baby gate or setting up an indoor kennel to create a physical ‘chill out’ zone for your dog, and ask your child to leave them be when in this area.
- Let sleeping dogs lie
Children should always leave sleeping dogs to do just that – much like the famous proverb goes. Suddenly waking them up mid-snooze risks startling them and putting their behaviour out of sorts.
- Practice being calm and gentle
Shouting and rough play can worry dogs, so it’s always a good idea to encourage your child to be as calm and gentle as possible when around them – including avoiding giving them unwanted touches, climbing on them, pulling their ears or tail or taunting them with treats. Ask them to stop at the first sign of your dog looking uncomfortable and suggest they switch their attention to another activity instead.
- Encourage them to teach tricks
Promote nice play by suggesting your child and your dog learn fun skills together. If you have older children, encouraging them to work on some basic obedience commands with the dog – like sit or lie down – can be a lovely way of building a bond between the pair.
- Rein in the love
Although hugs and kisses are lovely expressions of affection, they can be difficult for a dog to cope with – especially when they feel that their personal space is being invaded. If the dog wants affection, ask your child to express it in a slightly different way to how they would for humans – keeping it to things like head scratches where the dog can move itself away from the situation if it feels uncomfortable.
- Keep ‘dinner parties’ to a guest list of one
Occasionally dogs can become protective over treasured items, such as a bowl of food. When giving your dog a treat or its dinner, try to do so in a different room to where your young children are sitting or playing so that they can enjoy their meal undisturbed. The same also applies when they’re playing with their toys.
- Help them master the art of approaching a dog
Every dog is different and it’s impossible to get a good grasp on its temperament just by looking at it. By asking the owner whether it is ok to approach their dog, they can let you know whether that dog is comfortable around children or not. If they say yes, remind your child to always let the dog come to them rather than vice versa, stay nice and calm as it approaches and pause to offer the dog chance to indicate whether or not they want to continue receiving attention.
- Closely supervise children and dogs together
Try as they might, children may not always remember the golden rules of being around a dog. It’s very easy for excitement and curiosity to take over, which could create a stressful environment for the dog. Staying with them or nearby so that you can watch any interactions between dog and child and – where needed – separate them will help keep them both happy and safe in each other’s company.
Battersea has a range of free pet advice on its website and a special behaviour advice line run by its experts. For more advice, visit Battersea’s website: https://www.battersea.org.uk/pet-advice.