Safe play between children and dogs; how to supervise interactions – part II

Following on from part I of our Holidays4Dogs article about safe play between children and dogs; part II will focus on the best way to supervise interactions and help children to understand how to safely play with their four legged friends.

The main thing to remember when it comes to conflict between children and dogs is that it is neither the fault of the dog or the child.  Children don’t understand the signals a dog might be trying to communicate to them and dogs can’t speak English – so misunderstandings can easily happen.

This is why it is crucial to supervise children and dogs at all times and this means being pro-active about this and making sure you do monitor the situation – simply being present in the same vicinity isn’t enough.

As we said in our previous article, dogs rarely bite without reason, but frequently the warning signs they display are not picked up on by a person until it is too late and the dog has got to the biting stage.

When your child is playing with the dog – especially if they are very young toddlers; it is important to constantly watch interactions and offer direction where necessary.  Even when the two are not engaged in play, it is still important to be vigilant.  For instance, if you see your child toddling towards your sleeping dog; intervene and explain to the child that the dog must be left alone until he wakes up – as in dog training, offer some distraction and reward when the child complies with what you have requested!

You should teach your child some basic rules of how to behave around the family dog and how important it is to stick to them at all times.

  • Be calm and gentle in the dog’s presence – no squealing or yelling.

  • No rough handling – no pulling, pushing, hitting or wrestling.

  • No taking food or toys from the dog at any time, (no matter how amenable the dog is to this).  The exception to this is where you have trained the dog to retrieve and give up his toy and you have also instructed the child how to play this game.

  • Never disturb the dog while he is sleeping or eating his dinner.

  • Never try to sit on, or ride on the dog’s back.

Teaching a child how to behave around dogs; (all dogs, not just the family pet) needs to be approached in a positive manner, since you do not want your child to be alarmed or end up being fearful of dogs – but to simply respect them.

The body language that dogs display isn’t always easy for experts to interpret, so to expect a child to understand is asking a little too much.  However, there are some basic signs to teach your child to look out for:

If your dog looks away, lowers his head, or moves away altogether your child should learn that the dog probably does not want to interact and that they must not follow or chase the dog under any circumstance.  If the dog goes to his bed, he must likewise be left alone.

Most dogs are pretty tolerant of humans but this does not mean to say they don’t feel stressed or anxious at times.  The signs are there so make sure you always look out for clues that your dog isn’t so happy.  In so many cases of dog injuries to children it is likely that these initial signs went un-noticed so that, eventually he was forced into a situation where he felt he had no other option, but to snap or bite.

By monitoring interactions between children and dogs you are helping to create stronger a stronger sense of trust and respect which, in turn, helps forge a strong bond between dog and human.