Although incidents of dogs killing or seriously injuring children are very rare, it's sensible to work out ways to protect your child.
Children and dogs can be a difficult mix. As well as supervising your children when they're with a dog, you should teach them to:
- Stroke the dog gently on the head or chest without 'hugging' it around the neck.
- Avoid staring straight into the dog's eyes because it may think this is threatening behaviour.
- Avoid running and screaming around the dog.
- Leave the dog alone when it's eating or sleeping.
- Treat the dog with kindness and respect.
- Do some research before you buy and find out which breeds behave best with children.
- Buy from a reputable breeder.
- Take your dog to a formal training class and teach it to behave well around children.
- Make sure your dog has a 'retreat', such as a bed.
- Avoid giving your dog toys that resemble children's clothes or playthings.
- Don't allow your dog to play rough games with adults that wouldn't be safe with children.
If you already have a dog and are expecting your first baby, you should take precautions to make sure jealousy doesn't provoke aggression:
- Change the dog's routine ahead of the baby's arrival so it becomes used to its new regime - it may have to cope with fewer daily walks for the first few weeks, for example.
- Encourage the dog not to go upstairs if that's where your baby will be sleeping.
- Test your dog's reaction if you lavish attention on a doll wrapped in a blanket.
Outside the home
Most parents have known that nervous moment when a strange dog looms, especially if it's a big or boisterous animal.
In any situation where your children might come across a new dog, ensure they:
- ask the owner's permission before approaching the dog.
- allow the dog to sniff the back of their hand first.
- avoid running or screaming if they're frightened, instead they should stand still, fold their arms and stay quiet.
- don't stare at the dog, take its toy or bone, or put their face close to the dog's.
- Clean the wound with running water as soon as possible for ten minutes to reduce the chance of infection.
- Cover it with a non-stick sterile dressing.
- Stop bleeding by pressing firmly on bite while holding it in the air, if possible. If there's a lot of bleeding or the wound is large, deep or dirty, see a doctor or nurse.
- Animal bites abroad are potentially more serious because of the risk of rabies in some countries. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
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