Kids and Dogs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that children are involved in half of the 4.5 million dog bites each year. Dog bites in children can be devastating, due in part to the small size of children and subsequent ease of injury. In rare cases, a dog attack may result in a child’s death. Experts assert that a number of these injuries and fatalities involving children can be prevented by teaching kids and dogs proper ways to behave with each other.

Behavior of Kids and Dogs

One of the main ways families can help to avoid dog bites is to teach children how to behave around dogs. Though a dog may appear patient with a child’s aggressive or bothersome behaviors, dogs can be pushed beyond their limits in the same manner that humans can. Kids should be taught to avoid rough-housing or bullying dogs, as this behavior can cause dogs to act defensively.

Child Behavior

A key component in child behavior is for the child to understand that it is not acceptable to treat a dog however he or she wants. Children should avoid “bothering” dogs when they are eating, sleeping, or playing alone. If a child wants to pet an unfamiliar dog, parents should teach the child to always ask the dog owner’s permission before doing so. Children should always be gentle with dogs to avoid initiating a self-defense response.

Kids should be taught to avoid the following behaviors:

  • Pulling on a dog’s ears or tail
  • Hitting, scratching, biting, or yelling at a dog
  • Riding, sitting, or jumping on a dog
  • Excessive hugging or coddling
  • Placing his or her face too close to a dog’s face
  • Disturbing an eating dog, especially by reaching into a dog’s dish
  • Attempting to take a dog’s toy while it is playing alone

Dog Behavior

Dog bite injuries can often occur during aggressive playing, even if a dog is not purposely attacking out of self-defense. To prevent these incidents, dogs should be taught at a young age that it is unacceptable to jump or nip any individual, especially children. By enforcing that these behaviors are not allowed, families can help to eliminate the possibility of dog bite injury during what was a seemingly harmless and friendly exchange of affection.

Supervising Kids and Dogs

Supervising kids and dogs can be an effective management tool, especially during the first interactions between kids and dogs. By supervising kids and dogs, parents and families can assess whether the kids and dogs are acting appropriately with each other. If dangerous or unacceptable behavior is identified in either the kids or dogs, adults can correct this behavior immediately. When adults are unable to supervise, it is recommended to confine the dog into a safe area, such as another room or a kennel.




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Moss, Amanda. “May I Pet Your Dog?: The How-to Guide for Kids Meeting Dogs (and Dogs Meeting Kids).” School Library Journal Apr. 2007: 96. Academic OneFile. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.