Growing up with a dog can be a wonderful life experience. Watching your kids and dog play and learn together is heartwarming. They can share a special bond with memories to last a lifetime.
Despite this bond, leaving them alone unsupervised together, even for just a minute, is not worth the risk.
The potential of miscommunications and misunderstandings between kids and dogs are high. When left alone, behaviours can change quickly.
Supervision is not just about watching child and dog, it is also about intervening quickly and effectively when needed.
Teach your dog and your child how to share their environment appropriately and safely around each other and recognise when either your dog or child may need a break from the other. This includes helping your child to respect your dog’s right to say no if they want to take themselves to bed or try to get away.
Young children who are bitten by dogs most often know the dog - it's either their own, a friend's or a neighbour's dog. More often than not, these bites occur in and around their own homes.
Dogs and young children should always be supervised. Teach your child the Dos and Don'ts. These include:
- Don't approach a strange dog without permission from the owner
- Do approach a dog slowly with the back of the hand extended
- Do curl your fingers and allow the dog to sniff your hand
- Do stroke the dog gently on the chest, shoulder or under the chin
- Don't approach dogs that are sleeping or eating
- Do stand still like a fence post if approached by a strange dog
- Don't squeal or jump
- Do avoid eye contact with the dog.
Some of the best ways for kids and dogs to interact are through training and games. Kids can:
- Set up treasure hunts (with dog food or toys) around the house or the backyard (make sure they remember where they left everything)
- Train tricks or easy behaviours like ‘sit’, ‘drop’ or ‘hand targeting’
- Create enrichment toys with food inside cardboard, rinsed bottles or the like
- Throw toys around the backyard (lots of toys)
- Take the dog for walks with mum or dad
- Explore new areas together.