Dogs Trust

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Be Dog Smart this Christmas

a child and adult on the sofa next to a dog

Christmas is a fun but often chaotic time of year, and your home may become filled with visiting relatives and children.

However, as research from the British Medical Journal states that in almost half of dog bite cases, the person knew or had met the dog before, it is important to keep both dogs and humans safe and happy this Christmas.

Despite the festive season being an exciting time for us humans, the change in routine, increased noise levels and many new faces can increase a dog’s stress levels. With this in mind, it is even more important to encourage both adults and children to Be Dog Smart.

Our Education Team have put together some reminders to ensure everyone has a fun and safe Christmas.

Be Dog Smart. Use your WITs.

With the extra visitors this Christmas it is vital to ensure dogs are not left alone with children unsupervised, no matter how confident they are around dogs.

Christmas is a very busy time for adults, and you may find yourself juggling too many things! However, you should agree with visiting friends and family that you’ll all Be Dog Smart – this means helping each other out and taking it in turns to actively supervise dogs and children at all times.

It is best to have these conversations before your visitors arrive, so they know what is expected of them.


Watch icongraphy Watch: Watch when your child is around any dog

What’s normal behaviour for a child, such as running, shouting and energetic play, can be difficult for a dog to cope with. If any dog feels worried, scared or hurt, they may bite in self-defence.

Of course, Christmas is an exciting time for any child and should be enjoyed fully. However, it is best to ensure the fun and games occur in a room away from any dogs. All dogs in the home should have a safe and quiet space away from both children and adults to allow them to relax away from all the excitement.

Some dogs cope very well with visitors, whilst others struggle. Below are some common ways that dogs show us they are feeling worried or uncomfortable – be sure to look out for these signs and if you notice any of them, give the dog some space and allow them to move away. Ears back

  • Cowering
  • Licking lips
  • Yawning
  • Moving away
  • Avoiding contact
  • Growling
  • Snarling

Remember though, every dog is different and will have their own way of showing you that they are distressed.


Inform iconography Inform: Inform your friends and family

Christmas is all about spending time with loved ones, so with this in mind; when visiting friends or family, please share with them our Be Dog Smart information and make any changes you think are necessary to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children and dogs in your lives. Taking a minute to chat is so much better than taking a risk. It’s down to all of us to keep children and dogs safe.

When you have visitors, you can take extra steps to make it easier to Be Dog Smart:

  • Make sure the dog is walked and fed, and that they have a safe, quiet place they can retreat to if they want to.
  • Set clear boundaries and separate areas for the dog and children. Put up a baby gate where necessary.
  • Be active. If you are worried about the way a dog and child are interacting, stop the interaction right away

Teach icongraphy Teach: Teach your children the rules of safe behaviour

With your own or visiting children you should remind them how to behave around dogs

Share our advice with your children to help ensure that they’re safe and that dogs are happy and well cared-for. Don’t forget young children must always be watched and actively supervised though – you can’t count on a child to always remember when they are excited or curious.

Teach your children to:

  • Be calm: no loud noises, running or chasing games which can worry a dog.
  • Give a dog space: dogs don’t always like hugs and kisses the same way we do.
  • Play fairly: never tease a dog with toys or food.
  • Leave dogs alone when they are eating, sleeping or playing with a toy. Being disturbed can worry them.
  • Keep hands away from a dog’s eyes, mouth and ears. No pulling or poking – it can hurt them.

Be Dog Smart: In the home


Further information

You may be introducing children to dogs who have not met before, or possibly even have a fear of dogs. We offer a variety of free school workshops and have downloadable resources for parents and children to read to help build confidence around dogs.

For more information on how to Be Dog Smart, visit our website: www.learnwithdogstrust.org.uk