Your dog can be gentle with adults but have fear, territorial, or food aggression toward children. The home is the site of 85% of dog bites to children, 75% of these occurring when kids are visiting friends and neighbors. Dog owners and parents have a big responsibility.

  • Even the sweetest dog can feel forced to defend himself.
    • Young children blunder into trouble because they don’t recognize nonverbal canine aggression cues and may not even understand the meaning of a growl.
    • High energy play is not the solution. The more excited the child or dog gets the more likely one of them will misinterpret the behavior of the other.
    • Be especially careful with babies. The kicking and erratic wriggling of a normal infant can incite the predatory instincts in some dogs.

Here are the rules:

  • Never allow a child under the age of about 10 to be left alone with a pet.
  • Set a good example.
    • If you tease, play rough with pets or punish them physically your children will imitate you to an extreme, putting themselves at risk.
    • Never assume that just because your dog enjoys hugs or face to face contact with you that he’ll play along with a child.
    • It can also be dangerous for a child to pick up a dog.

Kids can take a position of authority.

  • Have the youngster sit in your lap facing the dog.
    • Tell the dog to sit.
    • Reward her with a treat and praise several times.
    • Then whisper “Sit” in the child’s ear so he can say it to the dog. With enough repetition your dog should start working for the child.
    • Building this deference will support the dog’s subordinate rank.
  • If there is any risk of a bite consider having the dog wear a vinyl basket muzzle when he is around small children. These are comfortable and well tolerated by most dogs.
    • Made of strong vinyl from UPCO.
    • Here is the web link (www.upco.com) or, in Albuquerque, retailers like Long Leash on Life (505-299-8800)

Your kids can learn that pets have rights too.

  • It’s natural for dogs to feel protective of their food so give them some peace.
  • Feed them in a separate room with the door closed.
  • Avoid competitive politics by giving your dog a special food toy in another room while the children eat.

Most important, children should know what to do if they feel threatened:

  • freeze
  • become small
  • don’t stare or scream
  • If a child approaches a strange dog she should stay calm and ask permission to pet-but only if an adult is right there.