Teaching Your Toddler to be Dog Safe

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It seems as if no week passes without a new incident of a child being bitten by a dog. Much emphasis is placed on the breeds of the dogs that bite, but in reality all dogs are potential biters if they feel threatened. If you want your children to be as safe as possible around dogs, teach them the following:

Toddler and dog

  • The most important thing is to be gentle. Move slowly, speak softly and refrain from pulling ears and tails. Children often inadvertently scare dogs by being too loud and fast.

  • Teach your kids to ask the dog owner whether the dog is familiar with children. Many dog owners know that their dogs do not know or like children, and will tell the kids to leave them alone.

  • Teach children to be aware of spaces that a dog may want to protect as its own. For example, it is never a good idea to pet a dog on its bed or through a fence, gate or car window since the dog may be protective of those spaces.

  • Teach children to be aware of objects the dog may want to protect as its own. It is usually inadvisable to pet a dog while it is eating or playing with a toy, since the dog may think the child is trying to take it away. It is safe to play with a dog's toy if the dog repeatedly puts it down in front of the child to be picked up.

  • Teach your children to be aware of the dog's body language. They should never chase a dog that moves away from them, no matter how much they want to play with it. They should also avoid dogs that growl and bark, bare their teeth or have the fur on their backs and necks standing up. Dogs that put their tails between their legs and shrink to the ground are frightened and should also be left alone.

  • If children encounter a strange dog, they should freeze and stand still for as long as the dog is interested in them. Then they can slowly walk away. It is crucial to teach kids never to run away from dogs if they are afraid.

  • Toddlers do not learn through lengthy discussions, however, so you will have to model the behaviour you want your child to display. If you have a dog at home, this is easy. You can also use stuffed dogs or even pretend to be a dog while teaching them. Reward them for good behaviour.

Toddlers remain toddlers, however, so even with training may still frighten dogs. Supervise your kids around dogs as much as you can.