A dog can be a child’s best friend. The right dog, properly socialized and trained, makes a safe, reliable companion. Nonetheless, a dog is an animal, and in some unfortunate circumstances dogs can and do bite. Children under 10 years of age are the most common victims, and summer is the most likely time of year. The majority of these bites happen in and around the child’s own home. Typically the biting dog is a family pet or belongs to someone the family knows.
The National Companion Animal Coalition has combined its efforts with the Canada Safety Council to develop an educational Web site with the goal of reducing the incidence of dog bites, especially in children under 10. The site, www.dogsandkids.ca, provides safety tips for young children, their parents and educators to help prevent dog bites. Some of the resources on the site are based on a dog bite prevention program adopted by the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Choosing Your Dog’s Personality
Are you in the market for a dog? The Dogs & Kids site advises you to choose carefully. Dogs that have been bred to be non-aggressive family pets are the best bet. If you want to know what to expect from a puppy, find out about the behaviour and characteristics of the parent dogs and of the breed in general.
The Canadian Kennel Club can help identify key issues before adopting a dog, and identify breeds that match your requirements. Pet specialty shops, humane societies and SPCAs are another excellent source for a pet dog. Most societies conduct temperament evaluations of the dogs in their care and will help you find a dog that is a good match for you and your lifestyle. In addition, your veterinarian can offer helpful advice to guide your selection.
Raising and Training Your Dog
Every owner or potential owner of a dog must understand and accept the responsibility of taking appropriate obedience training and socializing their dog properly. As an owner you are ultimately responsible for your dog’s behaviour and all of the safety issues regarding your pet.
When you take your new dog to the veterinarian for its physical examination, discuss any concerns related to behaviour and aggression. The importance of spaying / neutering your pet cannot be over-emphasized. Spaying and neutering may help eliminate various behavioural problems, in addition to preventing many medical issues.
Dogs & Kids includes a section on what dog owners should do in the interest of safety.
Teaching Kids About Dogs
Whether or not they own one, parents need to ensure their children know how to behave around dogs. Even a friendly dog may bite if threatened, angry, afraid or hurt. Dogs protect things they care about, including their food, puppies, favourite toy or owner. They also protect spaces – their own and their owner’s. Children need to understand that dogs are protective by nature, and to recognize situations that may frighten or anger a dog.
Never leave babies or young children alone with a dog. It is essential to teach children not to play fight with, tease, yell at, or chase dogs or other animals. Kids and their parents should visit the site to learn more about safety around dogs.