In staying with the theme of keeping children safe from dog bites, there are 10 typical things that children will do to dogs that put them at risk. Often we hear stories about children who are attacked by a dog. The media loves to report these incidents, making the dog out to be some kind of “monster” that attacked “unprovoked.” While this does happen from time to time, a lot of the time, the child can be as much at fault as the dog who gets blamed. To avoid these situations, teach your child the proper way to show affection that both the dog and child can enjoy
- Run and Scream. Dogs not only have sensitive hearing, but many breeds have high prey drive. A small, running and screaming child can look a lot like prey to a dog. Regardless of how well trained the dog is, many dogs will chase and/or bite a running or screaming child.
- Pull ears or tails. When you were young, do you remember the aunt that would pinch your cheek and say how cute you are? Most kids would try and hide to avoid the pinch. When a child pulls on a dog and the dog can’t get away, the child is liable to get bit. If your child plays rough with a dog, expect the dog to play rough back.
- Come Up From Behind. What do you do if someone comes up behind you and hugs you? Most likely you would be startled and scream and jump. Teach your child to approach a dog from the front and slowly so as not to startle them into biting.
- Steal Toys or Food. Just as you teach your dog to leave your kid’s toys, teach your children to leave the dog’s food, toys, bed, etc., alone. Dogs can guard their belongings and will growl or snap if someone tries to take them. Even if your dog doesn’t resource guard, your dog may snap toward the toy or treat to get it back and accidentally get your child instead.
- Carrying Small Dogs Around. Often children think of their small puppy or dog as a stuffed animal that can be squeezed, dragged, lifted, and even thrown. Teach your kids the proper way to handle and carry (if necessary) a dog, just like you would a baby human.
- Approach a Strange Dog Without Permission. Unfortunately, a lot of children think that all dogs are friendly and rush up to them without thinking. Teach your child to not approach any dog without first asking the owner if it’s okay. If there is no owner, then leave the dog alone.
- Face to Face. Children like to put their faces right up next to a dog’s. After all, kids do that to people they love—they kiss them, sit cheek to cheek to read a story, etc. However, dogs do not see this as an act of love. It makes them uncomfortable and a fearful or aggressive dog may snap at a child who puts his face to close to theirs.
- Drag Them by The Leash. Kids are used to dragging their stuffed dog wherever they want and it follows. When they get a real puppy, they tend to do the same. Not only can this cause harm to your puppy and make them fear the leash, it can cause them to bite your child the next time they try to leash them.
- Wake Them. Nobody wants to be wrestled from a deep sleep, least of all dogs. Teach your children to “let sleeping dogs lie.” Startling a dog that was sleeping can result in a bite.
- Touch Their Heads Roughly. Most children go straight to the head when it comes to petting dog. They will pat them hard on the head, hug their head, or grab their cheeks or the fur around the face and neck. There are not many dogs who will tolerate this nicely. Teach your child to avoid the head and nicely pet (not pat!) the dog on her body to prevent bites.
Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery County, northern Chester County and eastern Berks County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit www.barkbusters.com.
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