Kids and Dogs Living in Harmony
Safety tips for parents of babies and young children living with dogs
Although far too young to take on the sole care for a dog, a 3-year-old can fill the dog’s bowl with food and other simple tasks. Teach your children as early as possible to treat the dog with kindness and respect. Show your child to properly approach the dog by not startling the animal. Ward suggests, showing children to “slowly approach the dog open handed, palm side up, placing his hand under the dog’s muzzle.” Ward warns that “it is important for the child not to make direct eye contact with the dog as he may see this as challenging his authority, which may produce aggressive.” Children should remain calm around dogs and never run from them.
Praise both the dog and child for successful interactions. Provide boundaries and guidelines for the dog and kids in your home and yard. Enforce dog safety rules with your children, such as not touching dog’s food or toys. Explain to young children that dogs are living creatures and have basic needs and feelings not dissimilar to theirs.
Never Leave Dog and Child Alone Together
Depending on the size of the dog and the maturity of the child, most experts recommend that children under the age of four should not be left unsupervised with any dog. Obviously, the larger the dog, the greater the potential risk the animal can pose to a baby or small child. Big dogs are stronger, have sizable mouths, teeth, and paws and they can reach the cradle and high chair. Even the gentlest dog can be backed into a corner (literally) or feel otherwise threatened by toddlers and preschoolers and be forced to defend himself by barking, growling, scratching, or even biting.
Dogs may be intimidated by small children and may not respond well to their unpredictable behaviors. Babies and young children don’t have the cognitive ability to understand the nature, or respect the potential danger of dogs and can’t be trusted to be left alone with any animal. Make it a priority to protect your young child from your dog and to protect your dog from your child. Secure a separate part of your home or yard to keep the kids and dog apart when they will be out of your view.
Your little one and dog have plenty of time to become best friends. The loving, loyal, and protective relationship between your child and beloved pet is not necessarily natural or immediate especially if the dog was there first. This bond should be taught and reinforced by the parents.
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