The risk of being bitten by a dog is low compared to other common causes of accidents, in or out of the household, but that’s no consolation to those who find themselves on the business end of a pair of canine choppers. Kids especially are vulnerable. They tend to get excited around dogs and might approach too suddenly, shout too loudly, or dish out well meant but unwanted hugs. To keep kids safe, here’s a primer on what to teach them:
Don’t know the dog? Avoid. Lesson number one for kids is to avoid dogs they don’t know. Never approach an unfamiliar dog, especially one who’s tied up or confined behind a fence or in a car, regardless of the dog’s size or overpowering cuteness.
Know the dog well? Respect the space. Just like people, dogs have personal space we should respect, particularly during dinnertime, naptime etc. Tell your kids not to approach, touch, or try to play with any dog sleeping, eating, or chewing on a toy or bone. Mommy dogs with puppies are also best left alone. This goes for both strange and well-known dogs, even your own.
At all times: Let the dog choose. “How should a child approach a dog?” is really a trick question. Because they shouldn’t. A guardian may say your child can greet an unfamiliar dog, but it should still be up to the dog to choose whether she wants to be petted. How? Let the dog approach. This goes for dogs your child knows well too. The likelihood of any kind of incident between dogs and your child is greatly reduced by following this one simple rule.
Finally, if you’re the guardian, be your dog’s advocate. Even if you know your dog to be friendly, always let your dog choose whether to approach for a pet and respect her wishes when she doesn’t.
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