Be Dog Smart Week | Tips for families with dogs | Dogs Trust

Dogs Trust

Be Dog Smart Week: Top tips for families with dogs

Essential safety advice and tips for children and dogs

Be Dog Smart: Mum and child sitting on sofa with a dog

Children and dogs can be great companions, but it’s vital to keep an active, watchful eye.

If your family owns a dog or you have friends who do, you probably know what fun it can be. But here’s something you might not be aware of: Research from the BMJ has shown that in almost half of dog bite cases, the person bitten knew or had met the dog before. NHS data on hospital admissions also shows that most dog bits happen to children aged 0 to 9 years.

When you know a dog well, it’s easy to over-estimate their tolerance. But much like humans, every dog – even a dog you know, love and trust – has limits. The consequences of a dog bite can be devastating for everyone. As it is Be Dog Smart week this week, we are raising awareness of the steps you can take to ensure you and your family can Be Dog Smart.

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.

Be sure you know and watch for these common ways’ dogs show us when they’re feeling anxious or uncomfortable – and that it’s a good idea to give them some space. Remember though, every dog is different and will have their own way of showing you that they are distressed.

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

Never leave a child and dog together alone. Remember to actively watch them – even at home with your own lovely pooch.

INFORM: Inform your friends and family

When visiting friends or family, please share our Be Dog Smart information and make any changes you think are needed 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: Teach your children the rules of safe behaviour.

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.

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