Teaching children about dogs

A dog can be a child’s best friend, but it’s crucial to educate children on how to behave properly around dogs in order to stay safe. Ottawa certified behaviour therapist and master trainer Dianne Sarasin explains how to talk about dogs and safety with your kids.

w2015-stages-kidsDogs are one of the greatest friends your family will ever have. They are friends, playmates, companions, and even heroes. Dogs can teach children responsibility and respect for others.

When teaching your children about dogs, teach them to respect rather than fear dogs. But also teach them prevention and to be calm, gentle and as quiet as they can around dogs.

Tell them dogs get tired, cranky, and excited just like they do. Explain it in a way children will understand.

Tell your children not to try and pet a strange dog, even if the dog is with its owner and the owner says it’s OK. Sometimes even a dog’s owner doesn’t always know how their dog will behave around children.

Tell them to never approach a dog that is tied up or in a small space. Although they don’t mean to, this can frighten the dog, or cause him/her to try and protect their space in the same way they might not want to share their favourite play space with another child.

Tips for children when approaching a dog:

Don’t pet him or her without letting your dog see and smell you first (and don’t let your fingers stick out).

When you pet a dog, at first try scratching under his chin and even gently rubbing his chest. If this is OK with him/her, then you can try gently scratching behind their ears or the top of their head.

Dogs are just like us. If you stare into a dog’s eyes, this is the way another dog would pick a fight or even scare another dog. Even though you don’t mean to, you will confuse the dog and he/she may be scared or think you are trying to pick a fight

When a dog jumps up on your leg, this is the way dogs play rough. Even though it seems like fun, this is where the trouble starts because you are actually telling the dog that it’s OK for him/her to play rough with you.

If your child thinks a dog may bite them or is biting, tell them:

If you have a bicycle, a jacket, a wagon, a tree branch, or anything else lying around, try and put it between you and the dog.

If you have some food, something in your pocket, or can pick up a stick, a ball, or even a stone, throw it as far away as you can behind the dog; the dog may run after it.

If you think the dog is going to bite you, try your hardest not to scream or run away because this will only show the dog that you are afraid and likely cause the dog to bite you.

Never turn your back on a dog and try to run away, because the dog will always run faster than you, and you won’t be able to keep your eyes on the dog.

If the dog does knock you down, get on your knees and cover your neck with your hands and face with your forearms. Make like a rock, and count in your head to the highest number you know; eventually the dog will lose interest and go away.

Finally, parents should never under any circumstances, leave the family dog alone with infants or small children.