Keeping Young Children Safe Around Dogs

Written by: Kristina Lalovic
Having young children or babies around dogs can be very adorable, but it can also go wrong for numerous reasons. A toddler might be a bit too rough towards a dog, and a dog might lose his tolerance and bite out of warning. How do you prevent these accidents from happening? Learn and read on.

The reason why most parents are afraid of leaving their small kids around dogs is dog bites. Although dogs won’t bite your kid out of no reason, there are situations in which dogs can be provoked to “attack” or “warn” which can potentially harm your child and leave some unpleasant consequences. That is why it is important to stay informed on how dogs and children should interact and what should the boundaries of their interaction be.

The biggest thing kids and dogs have in common is their love of games. Often, they could spend hours and hours playing, and many times they can even play together. But, no matter how cute these situations might look to you, they are not the safest way to go. A lot of pet parents view their dogs as their “furry” children basically, and this way of approaching your dogs, while you have children, can create a lot of problems in how your dog will see your kid, and vice versa.

Although dogs are wonderful creatures that would almost never attack a child out of the blue, there are still some rules you should establish and some precautions that you need to be aware of to keep young children safe around dogs. In this article, we’ll tell you more about the kind of relationship you should try to instill between your kids and your dog, but first, let’s answer some questions.

Can Kids Be Safe Around Dogs?

Kids can be safe around dogs when there are some strict rules that each side of the relationship has to respect. A lot of times, a child gets bitten by the family dog that was super gentle towards the little toddler. To the entire household, the occurrence of such a thing is always something that happens “out of the blue”, however, that is usually far away from the truth.

Next time you hear a dog owner happily say that their dog “even lets the kids sit on him”, don’t see it as something positive. Rather, look at it as an inappropriate way to treat a dog. Invading his personal space and freedom of movement will frustrate him, and his tolerance might simply drop, he might snap and bite your kid. The problem gets even bigger because these bites usually aim at a kid’s face, because usually small kids and dogs are of a similar height.

So, can kids be safe around dogs? Yes. But they should never interact without supervision or stay alone. Not even a single minute. Young children are completely defenseless, and only one wrong move from your dog might turn your kid over and cause serious injuries. Not to mention the probability of being bitten.

However, what not everyone realizes is that usually these “attacks” are actually caused by something the toddler did. Young children often have unpredictable movements and can easily get into a rougher game than dogs can tolerate. You know how bad it can hurt when a toddler squeezes you with his small, but strong hand? Exactly. When a kid similarly takes a dog, especially if it’s around his head or another sensitive area, it is always a miracle if the dog doesn’t bite. Not out of aggression, but rather as a sign to say, “Ok, stop this hurts!”. Only that your dog doesn’t know how much his “bite” can cause pain in a small creature such as a toddler.

Therefore, dog bites rarely come “out of the blue”. Rather, it is the result of your dog trying to settle and tolerate an interaction which is not pleasant for him. When it becomes too much, the dog snaps and the game is over. However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything about it. Remember, the problem was created in the first place because you didn’t set the right boundaries, so by working on them, you will most likely be able to get your dog’s and child’s relationship back to normal.

If you want to establish a good atmosphere between the youngest members of your household and your four-legged friend, then you should first study your dog’s body language to understand when your dog is comfortable and when he is stressed. Recognizing your dog’s feelings by reading his behavior correctly will easily tell you when the interaction with a small kid has to stop. These signs can be as simple and benign as your dog shaking his fur off, as if he was wet, or other small movements that might imply his anxiety.

Should Babies Be Around Dogs?

Leaving young children, especially babies, around dogs alone is not a good idea. Your kid could accidentally bully or pester your dog to such an extent that your dog feels he needs to bite. Unless you are watching the situation very carefully, or you know that the dog is already used to young kids, don’t ever leave babies alone with dogs.

Sometimes, biting accidents and injuries occur from a simple misunderstanding. For example, if you started coughing a lot, or you started crying because you kicked your toe on the bed, a dog could interpret your behavior as a “defending” one, and jump onto other people to guard you. Dogs usually bite when they are scared, which is why you might not be able to notice any sign of aggression in your pooch’s behavior, but should still be cautious when your dog is around kids and toddlers. This can also happen with your little toddler, and your dog might get a little bit too intense for your kid.

Also, keep in mind that the size of the dog doesn’t really matter when it comes to babies and dogs. A dog’s still a dog, no matter how small it might be.

If your dog has previously been used to spending time with babies, and knows to “behave” around them, it might be a bit easier. However, it is always better to make sure your dog doesn’t get too close, because you never know when an unexpected incident could occur.

Another important factor here is the hygiene. Some families let their dogs share beds with their kids or simply let them share the same areas with their babies. However, this might not be the best idea. Cat or dog mouth can have viruses, parasites or bacteria that can be harmful for humans. Therefore, a small scratch could cause serious issues and infections in a baby. Also, dog kisses might be a bit too much for your toddler’s immune system to handle, so make sure you don’t make it a habit.

At What Age Can Babies Be Around Dogs?

Babies start to show their interest in dogs when they are around 6 months old. At this time, it is still not wise to let your kid play freely with the dog, but you can slowly teach your child to interact properly with your dog.

Show that the dog has to be petted on his back or his side, rather than on his head. As your kid grows older, he will probably be more and more interested in playing games with your dog. However, it is better to wait until your kid can steadily run and walk before you let those two play together.

As time passes, you will teach your kid how to behave around your dog. Similarly your dog will also adopt new ways of behaving when small humans are in the game. However, it is important for you, as a dog owner and a parent, to know how to read your dog’s body language in order to prevent any incident from happening. This will also help you understand other dogs better, which will furtherly minimize chances of your kid being attacked.

Most Common Reasons Of Dog Bites In Children

If you’re still afraid about what you’re going to do with your dog when a new baby arrives, or what you’re going to do when you have to visit your friends that own a dog and you have to bring your kids too, here are a couple of things you should keep in mind. Mostly, if your kid is well-behaved and polite, the chances of an accident are much fewer. If, on the other hand, your kid is quite hyperactive and a bit off limits at times, the risk might increase.

In order to be aware of how important your and your kid’s approach to dogs is to have a great bond with a dog, we will list the most common reasons of dog bites in children.

  • Food. If you think about it, probably you wouldn’t let your kid stick their tiny hands in your meal, right? Or imagine a random child walking to you and doing the same, while you’re extremely hungry? You would surely react negatively, and so does your dog.
  • Stealing toys from dogs. We tend to forget that animals can be quite possessive over their belongings. So, if your kid and your dog are playing together, always remind your kid not to steal toys from the dog unless the dog brings it by himself. Also, it is important to train the dog that mistakes can occur by rewarding them whenever they are patient and calm with your young ones.
  • Inappropriate social distance. As a human you surely know what this means and how irritating it can be when someone gets in your face for no reason. Well, guess what? Dogs don’t like that either and they might not tolerate it, even if it’s your child doing it. The same is true for sitting on a dog and too much hugging.
  • Disrupting sleep. Just like you don’t like to get disturbed while you’re asleep, so doesn’t your dog. Your dog might be gentle and tender with your baby, but he might not be when he’s trying to have some rest. He just simply might not even get to understand what happened.
  • Rough games. Kids can sometimes go too far and be extra rough in their games. They might squeeze, scratch, or kick because of the lack of coordination they have when they are still young. Explain your kid that just like he doesn’t enjoy being handled roughly, neither does your dog.
  • Loud screaming. – Screaming will make your dog or alert, or too protective, or will scare him off. And all three of these behaviors can easily lead to a biting episode. Therefore, the calmer the attitude your kid has towards the dog, the less likely it is for a dog to harm your little one.

Understand Dog Body Language And Prevent Dog Bites In Children

If you want to be extra cautious in making sure your baby is always safe around a dog, there are some things that you can do about it. First of all, you should be able to read your dog’s body signs, then you should establish some rules with your kid too, and finally, you should show your dog that your kid is a gentle, sensitive creature that needs protection.

So basically, in order to set the good ground for your kid and another dog’s friendship, here are some rules that you will have to follow.

  • Teach your kid to be careful and calm around dogs. The only thing your kid needs to understand is that he should be polite and kind towards your dog, and treat it almost as a person.
  • Never let your kid pet a dog unless the owner approved it.
  • Teach your kids that teasing dogs too much or playing too roughly isn’t a good idea.
  • Make sure your dog responds to basic commands and doesn’t jump on people when excited.
  • If a dog is sleeping, eating, or doesn’t feel well, it is better to keep your kid away from him. Their behavior and tolerance change a lot when they are not feeling themselves. They can also get overprotective over food or bed, so bothering them during eating or sleeping isn’t something you want your kid to do.
  • Although it looks cute to you, dogs actually don’t enjoy being hugged too much. Notice how most dogs turn their heads when given a hug by their human. That is one sign of an uncomfortable dog. Therefore, don’t let your kid hug or kiss your dog alone. Tell your kid there are other ways that he can express his affection towards him.
  • If you suspect your dog might be jealous of a new baby, then look for different ways of introducing your baby to a dog. Consider gradually adapting your dog to new circumstances before baby even arrives home.

To choose the dog that is great with children you should do an extended research on different breeds, which is why compare dog breeds tool is so effective.

It also helps to be honest on your lifestyle, and if your family loves spending time outdoors, you need a breed that loves spending time outdoors as well, being active.

This is the best way to meet dog’s exercise needs and create a healthy bond between your family members and Fido.