That phrase permeates everything, doesn’t it?
Whether it’s the painstaking child-proofing of your home, or the rules you teach and enforce (Look both ways! Wash your hands! Hold mommy’s hand!) it’s always safety first.
Yet, somehow, we fall flat when we’re at home with our kids and pets.
We take it for granted–She’s such a good dog! They get along so well!–and we let our guard down just a smidge.
According to SafetyAroundDogs.org: “The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates half of all children 12 years-of-age and under have been bitten by a dog. In many cases, teasing or an unintentional provocation, such as approaching a dog while it’s eating or sleeping, can lead to a dog bite or even worse, an attack. The vast majority of dog bites are from a dog that the child is acquainted with – his or her own, a neighbor’s, or a friend’s dog.”
The good news: Dog bites are almost entirely preventable.
But it’s on YOU, parents. Not your kids and certainly not your dog.
Any dog can bite. Big or small. Fluffy or sleek. Known or or unknown. Kids need to understand that any dog, including their own, can bite.
Even if your dog is well socialized and even if your kid knows the safety rules, you’re still the one in charge, so here are a few tips to make dog-bite prevention even easier:
Kids and Pets Should Never Be Alone Together
One of the most common factors in a dog bite? An unsupervised child. If your kiddo is under 12, never leave your kid and dog alone together unsupervised. Some easy solutions: Set up baby gates in various places around the house that make it easy to separate kids from pets. Give your dog a “safety space” in a crate or gated off in a separate room where your children aren’t allowed to approach. Make the space fun for your pup with food puzzles or toys. Remove your dog to that safe space if you’re ever unable to supervise your kids’ interactions with your dog.
Know Your Dog’s Limits
If your dog is sick or tired or sore, keep your kids away. End of story. Yes, your dog is a member of your family, but it’s better that she feel sad being away from you while recovering than have your kid fall on her and force a negative response. Dogs don’t want to bite. Don’t put your dog is a position where she feels she has to.
Teach Dog-Friendly Rules to Your Kids
Other than the rules above, there are some basics that every kid needs to know. Here are three to start with:
- Never, ever poke fingers through a gate or fence to pet a dog, even if it’s a dog you know.
- Kids should know not to approach a dog who’s eating, drinking, sleeping, barking, growling, or playing with a toy.
- If your dog is trying to find a quiet place to go or looks like she’s trying to escape your kiddo, they need to know not to pursue, chase, or follow!
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) produced a series of funny-but-helpful educational videos that are worth watching with your kids, too.
Here’s the full playlist, and one of my faves is below:
As the parent, you need to have a basic understand of your dog’s body language, too, because the thing is… your dog can’t be held responsible for your kid’s actions. Or your neighbor’s kid’s actions. Check out this handy and adorable poster (credit ©2011 Lili Chin):
BTW, check out her site for a ton of awesome (and free!) posters that can be printed and hung on your fridge!
Some Final Dog-Bite Prevention Tips
When adopting a new pet, visit a well-run shelter with involved staff who can tell you all about a dog’s personality. Be sure to share your kid’s personality, too, so they can help you find a dog who’s the right fit.
Take your dog to training classes that use positive, humane, science-based methods.
In addition to training, socialize your pup to other dogs, kids, adults, and so on.
Spay or neuter your dog. Some evidence suggests “fixed” dogs bite less often.
If your dog indicates any aggression in any situation, schedule an appointment with your vet ASAP. Let her rule out underlying medical causes, then ask for a referral to a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist to work on any issues before they can become a bite.
Dog bites are preventable.
Supervise your kids.
We like to think our kids are wonderful little angels, but dog bites happen when kids–not dogs–aren’t behaving.
Never expect your dog to behave when your kid isn’t.
Separate them, yes, to protect your kid from a bite, but more so to protect your dog from being put in the situation where she feels compelled to bite.
Finally, a few resources for you to help further your education on preventing dog bites:
- Stop the 77: 77 percent of dog bites come from the family’s dog or a friend’s dog, according to this resource. There are a ton of useful, accessible videos to watch with your kids.
- Dog Safety for Kids: Be a tree: This is particularly important if your kiddo encounters a loose dog.
- Kids and Dogs: How Kids Should and Should Not Interact With Dogs
- Take a class together: Find a rewards-based training program near you that teaches your children how to interact safely with dogs.
Have you ever experienced a dog-bite situation with your kids or your pets? If so, how did you handle it? If you’re teaching your kids bite safety, what tools and resources do you recommend? Have you taken a class or read any good books to share with the community?