This week’s blog is about something we promote in every aspect of our work in the education department. This is the necessity to teach our children to Be Dog Smart in the home.
There are so many benefits to children growing up around dogs, but we cant ignore the fact that children under 10 are statistically the age group most likely to present to hospital with a dog related injury*. But why is this? And is it preventable?
We believe that children are more likely to behave in impulsive ways; forgetting that dogs can feel emotions just like us, and failing to realise that their actions can have consequences on their own safety and the wellbeing of a dog. Its certainly not children’s fault that they can fail to take on board these things, they are after all children.
But we also believe that children can learn to behave appropriately around a dog once they have a better understanding of these things, particularly school aged children. So yes, we believe that most dog bites sustained by children are very much preventable.
So what can you teach your kids?
Firstly we believe developing in children an understanding that any dog can bite, even their own dogs or dogs they know very well is likely to result in them behaving more respectfully and responsibly around dogs. Everyone has bad days and this is exactly the same for our four legged friends. Like us, even our pet dogs have tolerance levels that can be crossed. You may believe that you could do anything to your dog and they wouldn’t bite, but why take that risk? And why test your dog’s tolerance?
Secondly it’s vital children understand when their own dog may not want to be interacted with. In our experience it is common for children to be bitten as a result of disturbing dogs when they are sleeping, playing with toys and eating, so dogs should be left alone at these times. If a dog moves away from them, it is vital children know not to follow. We also recommend all dogs in the home have a safe space such as a corner of the house or, if they have been crate trained with positive reinforcement, a crate covered with a blanket. This is a space that once the dog is in, the children know they do not disturb the dog. This allows for your dog to freely move into it when they want to be left alone, and choose to come out when they feel comfortable interacting with the children.
And thirdly we believe children should have an understanding of teasing a dog, and when they are doing it. By teasing we mean interacting with a dog in a way the dog does not enjoy. For example something children may find funny like lifting a dog’s front paws up to ‘dance,’ riding a dog like a horse, pulling tails or ears or taking away the dogs toys. Not only can teasing result in a dog’s tolerance being pushed leading to a bite, but also teasing is likely to lead to long term behaviour issues.
So please consider all the above if you have a dog at home with your children. If children learn these vital guidelines about interacting with dogs in the home, we believe we can drastically reduce your children’s chances of sustaining injury, but also ensure your dog stays happy and healthy in your home.
More information on our Be Dog Smart educational campaign can be found on our website. And why not check out our free family dog training sessions held at many of our rehoming centres across the UK. Just like Hugh here, with his Mum and dog Baybay. Contact your nearest Dogs Trust Dog School for information as to how to book www.dogstrustdogschool.org.uk
*NHS data HSCIC http://content.digital.nhs.uk/article/2100/Admission-rates-for-dog-bites-and-strikes-highest-among-young-children-with-under-10s-accounting-for-one-in-six-admissions