Start by remembering that no animal can be considered 100% safe all of the time. They don’t think and reason the way humans are supposed to. Life is full of risks and learning how to deal with them is part of growing up which, with careful guidance, should begin at an early stage in a child’s life. Children must be taught by their parents the right ways to treat dogs.
In many of the cases that result in horrific news stories the problem could be traced back to human failings. So how can we as responsible parents and dog owners ensure that our children grow up enjoying a happy relationship with our own dogs and avoid unpleasant encounters with of other dogs?
The Kennel Club offers some very sound advice which starts even before a dog or a puppy is introduced to a home with young children. First teach the children that a puppy is definitely not a toy! It is very different to a doll for example. It won’t take kindly to being picked up and cuddled or carried. Kissing it is unhygienic anyway and should be discouraged for that reason alone. The puppy won’t appreciate it anyway! Dressing up the puppy is a big “no-no”.
Teach the children not to encourage a puppy to chase them. Dogs are natural hunters and this behaviour can lead to dangerous situations later. A puppy’s “play-bite” may be amusing but when he’s grown up it won’t be! Don’t encourage it in puppyhood and make sure the children don’t.
The safe and sure way to ensure that these principles are applied and to avoid unpleasant experiences is to follow the golden rule; never leave small children alone with any dog. Children and dogs are unpredictable and an adult needs to be there to intervene if the safety of the children or the welfare of the dog begins to be compromised.
Remember, the dog or puppy needs time to itself to rest and enjoy some peace and quiet, just like you do. Parents might have some trouble remembering those times! When the pup wants to play, he or she will let you know. Incidentally, why do pet food adverts always refer to dogs as “he” and cats as “she?
Children are notoriously short on patience and that is something that parents have to try to instil in them. (Good luck with that!) Puppies are the same but good training can help. Both you and your dog or better still, pup, really should attend dog training classes. That will pay dividends for the whole of your dog’s life.
Some Simple Guidelines for Children
- - Playing rough games with your puppy, like play fighting with each other or provoking the puppy to be protective, can encourage aggressive behaviour later.
- - Unless your puppy makes close face-to-face contact itself, keep your face away from the puppy's face. You may get your face bitten otherwise!
- - Never force attention on your puppy. If you want to play, gently encourage the puppy to join you, but don’t make it if it doesn’t want to. Understand that 'quiet time' with the puppy is important too. It needs some space and peace and quiet as well as play.
- - Be tidy and keep toys and clothes out of reach of the puppy. If you don’t, it will probably steal them then chew them and even swallow small toys just to get attention. You don’t want your puppy to be always at the vet’s having operations to remove things from its insides. It could even die!
- - Always ask for the owner’s permission before you pet or stroke their dog. If the dog is unaccompanied, leave it alone!
Parents: Do remember that, to be legally responsible for a dog outside the home a child must be 10 years old or over.
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