You will hear people say that their dog is so laid back and submissive that their children can lay all over them, pull on its ears, and yank him around the yard without any reaction from the dog. My reply is, “give it time.” Just because a dog is very patient and forgiving doesn’t mean that it will stay that way forever, especially if the ‘torment’ increases with the child’s age and size. It is never okay to allow your children to tease or torment any animal no matter that animal’s disposition. Not only are you setting your child up for a possible bite injury, you are also showing great unkindness to the animal.
Start teaching your children proper respect and kindness by following a few simple guidelines:
1. Don’t ever bother an animal when he is sleeping or eating. These are prime times for incidents, even with a patient, “kid-friendly” dog. Stay away from their food bowls (even when empty), and don’t try removing things from the dog’s mouth.
2. Teach your children to never tease or even approach a dog that is tied, fenced, crated or even in a vehicle. A dog that is confined in any way can become very territorial and defensive even if they are normally a very friendly dog.
3. Your child should learn to always ask the person with a dog if it would be okay for them to greet the dog before they ever approach the dog and most certainly before they pet him. Even if the dog isn’t an aggressive dog, many are shy or scared around strangers and this can cause him to bite if startled (say from a quickly approaching, exuberant child).
4. Instruct your child to pet a dog on the shoulder and back area as many dogs don’t like being touched on the head and face. A hand reaching at a dog’s face, especially overhead, is an invitation to getting bit.
5. Teach your children never to put their faces close to a dog’s face, stare directly into their eyes, or grab them around the neck (as in hugging them). These are the things that dogs do to each other when they are picking a fight. The dog may take these approaches from your children as a sign of aggression and snap at them.
6. Teach them never to run from a dog that rushes up to them on the street. Instead, stand as still and straight as possible – ‘like a tree’ – with their arms at their sides. Remain as calm and quiet as possible and wait for the dog to (hopefully) lose interest and walk away. Then and only then should you move and turn and walk slowly away in the opposite direction.
7. If the dog does knock them down, teach them to curl up – ‘like a rock’ – put their head on the ground and cover their neck and the back of their head with their arms. Keeping their neck and face protected in this manner will give them the best chance of not being seriously injured.
With just a few common sense guidelines for your child to follow, you can have more peace of mind that your child will be better prepared, and therefore safer, around dogs. An added bonus of teaching children to respect animals is that you’d be helping take the first step in ending animal cruelty. Talk to your children today.