Dog owners and parents alike need to share the responsibility of preventing dog bites of children. Children should be taught how to behave around dogs, even if their own family does not have a dog. Likewise, dogs need to be socialized to small children.
Socialization of a dog can be as simple as walking the dog near a playground where children are making noise, running about, playing ball or Frisbee, or walking through the neighborhood while children are waiting for the school bus. The can be taught to walk at a heel through a crowd of children, to sit-stay and watch them play, or allow a child to pet his head. Constant exposure of this type will accustom a dog to the presence and antics of children.
Follow these guidelines to help prevent dog bites:
* Never chain a dog outside unattended. Dogs of work and guard heritage can become aggressive. Dogs are better off in a fenced area where they feel somewhat safe from noisy children.
* Never leave a dog with a small child. A young child may challenge or injure a dog unintentionally.
* Separate dogs and children at snack time so the dog does not learn to steal food from tiny hands.
* The dog should have a private place of his own, which can be a crate, a room, and so on. Children should never bother the dog when he is in his place.
* If a dog has access to a fenced yard, make sure that neighborhood children do not accidentally or intentionally tease the dog--if they do, your dog will learn to hate children.
* Do not play tug-of-war with any dog who has access to children. The dog will learn to tug on any item, and that any item he tugs on is his--even it it's a child's toy, clothing, or limb.
* Children should never approach a strange dog without asking the owner if it's okay.
* Teach your children to respect dogs, and let them know that teasing or harassing a dog is forbidden.
More Safety Tips
Children should never approach a loose dog on the street, even if he knows the dog belongs to a friend. Instead, the child should tell someone that he saw the dog.
Children should never scream or run away from a dog. This triggers a chase response in the dog. Once triggered, the dog is reacting to a chemical stimulus, not rational thought. The chase is almost impossible to stop.
Children should never stare at or make threatening or aggressive moves toward a dog. Dogs do not consider children as figures of authority, and may try to bite to protect themselves.
If a child is given permission to approach a dog, he should present his closed fist for the dog to sniff, protecting his fingers in case the dog nips.
Children should never hug a dog that is not their own. They should hug their own dog only if the dog can tolerate it.
Children should lower their voices when playing with or around dogs. Loud, high-pitched screams sound similar to the sounds of prey, and make trigger a chase response.
Children must always leave a dog alone when he is sleeping, eating, or ill.