Once your child learns to walk and be more mobile, the need to educate them on how to act around dogs is imperative to their safety. From how to approach a dog to how to treat a dog at rest, here’s how to teach your toddler to be safe around dogs.
Teaching your child to be gentle with your dog is one of the most basic first steps when it comes to dog safety. It’s such an important step because it will set the tone for your toddler’s interactions with your dog forever. In turn, this will likely affect how your child will interact with other dogs as well.
No matter the size of your dog, you need to teach your child the proper way to interact with them. Show your child how to gently pet the dog. Teach your child that they cannot pull on your dog’s ears or fur. Instead, teach them to stroke the animal slowly. Let your child touch their ears or their tail as well as petting them. Just make sure your child does not grab handfuls of fur or the dog’s tail.
If your child can be aggressive with their toys or blankets, you should give your child a stuffed dog toy and teach them to pet that before moving on to a real dog. Once they have gotten the hang of petting their stuffed dog, you can let them move on to the real thing.
Always Ask to Pet a Dog
Even if you do not own a dog yourself, teaching your toddler about dog safety is very important. This is especially the case if you have friends or relatives who have dogs. Here’s how you can teach your child to approach a dog:
- Always ask for permission first. As an adult, you can ask the dog’s handler if your child can pet their dog. The handler knows the dog best and can likely judge if it would be safe for your child to pet their dog.
- If you’ve been permitted to pet their dog, you can approach the dog slowly. You never want to run up to a new dog. This may give the dog anxiety and result in a bad experience.
- Place your hand out with your palm up and let the dog sniff you. Never jam your hand into their face, rather put your hand out and let the dog come to you on their terms.
- Once you’ve initiated contact with the dog, it’s alright for your toddler to do just as you did.
Most dogs love attention and will probably come right over for some petting, but it’s always best to ask the owner and let the dog come to you.
Do Not Approach Unknown Dogs
Sometimes while out on a walk, you might run into an extra cute dog that you just have to pet. Again, the rules above still apply. But you should never let your toddler pet an unknown dog. Even with an owner present, you don’t know how the dog might react to you and your child. If the dog is not accompanied by an owner, you should be extremely cautious and try to remove your child from that situation.
No Yelling, Hitting Dogs, or Making Rapid Movements
When you are teaching your child about dog safety, you mustn’t yell or hit the dog. You should also not make any fast movements around a dog. This can spook the dog and cause them to act to protect themselves.
No yelling is a crucial rule for young children who do not have the best control of their voices yet. Reminding them to be calm and speak in low voices to pet a dog is a good incentive to teach your child to better control their impulses as well.
Don’t Bother a Dog While They Eat or Sleep in Their Crate
Some people seem to forget that even the most friendly dog is still an animal. Dogs have been domesticated for centuries, but they still have instincts to help protect themselves. These protective instincts extend to protecting themselves while they eat. The act of eating makes your dog very vulnerable.
If your child sneaks up behind them while eating, it’s hard to say what might happen to your child if they startle your dog. This is why it’s so important to teach your child from a young age to respect your dog while they’re eating. This respect should extend to their sleeping time as well. If your dog sleeps in a crate, having a child approach them may cause anxiety. Hitting the crate can be very loud for a dog as well, so make sure your child is always respectful and gives your dog their space when appropriate.
Give Your Child Age-Appropriate Responsibilities for Your Dog
Once your child starts growing up with your dog, it’s important to give them appropriate tasks to help you and your dog. Once they’re old enough, maybe it’s your child’s job to let the dog out of their crate in the morning or after coming home from school. Maybe your child is old enough to help brush the dog. Whatever the task is, make sure your child can do it appropriately and be sure to model how to do the task properly.
Never Run Away from a Dog
Another important dog safety rule that many people forget is to never run away from a dog. Your family’s dog might think it’s fun to run around the house. Unfamiliar dogs can see a running child and have a “prey” response triggered. This can cause the dog to chase the child and try harming them.
Safety is a priority when it comes to our kids. If you teach your child how to interact with dogs and other pets early, there is a decreased chance of risky encounters between your child and a pet. These skills will also give your child the confidence they need when unplanned interactions, like those with a stray dog, take place.