Dogs and children can be great friends and having a dog can help children develop kindness, understanding and respect for living things. Dog companionship can improve a child’s social skills with people and caring for a pet can encourage responsibility.
Because of this many families have dogs. Children quickly understand and learn to treat the dog as part of the family but it is important that parents teach children how to stay safe around dogs, to protect both child and dog.
Dogs and children communicate differently
From a dog’s point of view, children communicate differently to adults. Children often like to hug, cuddle, hold and scold dogs and dogs find it hard to understand children and even harder to tell them when they want to be left alone!
Children express affection for their family through close facial contact e.g. kissing. While this may seem sweet, a dog may find this threatening and it can be quite dangerous.
For these reasons young children are more likely to be bitten than any other group and research shows that children are far more likely to be bitten by their family dog than any others. However, there are lots of things you can do to make sure your child is safe and your dog is happy.
The RSPCA have an information booklet you may find useful here.
Dogs and young children are also the most vulnerable when it comes to accidental poisonings. They can eat things that are not meant for them, such as medication, cleaning products or plants that they may find in their yard.
Dogs and children are both at risk of ingesting poisons because they often explore their environment with their mouths while looking around. They also explore by licking objects in the house, like furniture or flooring. And they lick up substances like lotion or toothpaste while exploring your face or mouth.
The most common hazardous household substances for dogs and children include: medications, cleaning products and plants. These toxic substances can be found inside the home as well as outside the home in yards and parks.