This is a partnered post.
Lots of children love dogs and want to interact with them. If your child is ever around dogs, whether your own, dogs owned by friends or family or dogs on walks at the local park, then they need to know how to interact with them safely. Dogs are animals, which means they can be unpredictable. With proper knowledge, your child can enjoy canine company without putting themselves at risk.
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1. Approach dogs slowly and quietly. Whether it’s your own dog, or someone else’s, children need to know how to safely approach them. Even the nosiest, most excitable child needs to know to be calm and quiet when approaching a dog. They should make no loud noises or sudden movements, especially when meeting a strange dog for the first time. Always greet a dog from the side and give them space, and make sure your child knows to do the same.
2. Educate your child about sleeping dogs. Dogs sleep for a lot of the day, which can be frustrating for young children hoping to pet or play with them. Remind your children that a dog may by grumpy if woken up, and make react aggressively if startled while they’re sleeping. Your own dog should have their own space to sleep, and you should teach your child not to approach them when they use this space to avoid a dog bite.
3. Interact with the dog’s owner. If you often see dogs on the school run or at the park, teach your child to speak to the owner first and not the dog. They should ask the owner whether the dog is friendly and if it is ok to say hello. Some dogs may be unfriendly, or not sure of children, so it is always safest to check with the person who knows the dog best. They should only pet a strange dog with permission from the owner.
4. Keep their face away from the dog. Children love their pets and may want to hug them tight and smother them in kisses. Dogs can feel smothered by this and may react by snapping, which could be very nasty if your child has their face close to the dog. Instead, teach your children to keep their faces away and show them different ways to show affection to their dogs, such as stroking or nice scratches.
5. Set rules around playtime. Always supervise children, especially toddlers, when they are playing with a dog. Help them to understand that dogs respond best to calm games and that they should stop playing if the dog gets overexcited. Rough games are not advised, as it can teach the dog to play rough with the child, which might accidentally hurt your child. For example, allowing a puppy to play bite might seem fine, but could become a real problem in an adult dog. Instead, encourage safe but still fun games like fetch, or learning tricks like shaking paws, playing dead, or rolling over. Your child should be able to play safely and still enjoy it.