Feb 11

Your Kids and the Family Dog

When it comes to dogs and kids, the rule is - remember the saying - prevention is 90% of the cure!  Sometimes a pup will nip a child, and the whole incident could have been prevented if we had just spent a little time helping our child understand how to properly interact safely with dogs. Make sure that your children of all ages know the "family rules" concerning your dog. It can be helpful to have them make a chart with the family dog rules  and post it on your refrigerator or bulletin board.

If they are too young to write the chart, write it for them and include pictures that they can color which will help them remember each item. Here is a sample chart you can use or adapt as you see fit (feel free to print this for your own family's use, but if you would like permission to use for other purposes, please This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it me):

Family Rules for Buddy

Please Do:

1. Make sure Buddy always has fresh water available. Feed Buddy only at his regular mealtimes and only if your parents give you permission to feed him.

2. Find out what Buddy really loves to do. It may be playing ball, or just sitting beside you while you are doing your homework. Just like people, each dog has favorite ways of expressing affection with friends.

3. When Buddy wants attention, ask him to sit or stand still before you pet him so he will not jump up. Rub him gently when he is sitting or standing quietly. Dogs like gentle rubs in the direction their hair grows. Many dogs do not like thumps or pats on the head--pat yourself briskly on the top of your head and you will see why!

4. Leave Buddy alone when he is eating, chewing on something or sleeping. You don’t always wish to share your favorite things, do you? If a dog grabs one of your toys or something which belongs to you, ask an adult to get it back for you.

5. Have your parents work with you to get Buddy to sit, lie down and respond to other commands. If Buddy will lie down and stay when you ask him to do so, he is showing respect for you as his trainer and friend. Do not practice training exercises except when an adult is there to help you.

Please Don’t

1. Don’t squeeze Buddy or any other dog around the neck. When someone hugs you and you are not feeling like a hug, you have hands that you can use to push them away. Dogs do not have hands, so the only way they can push us away is with their teeth. Hugging dogs can make them bite if it frightens them, so it is best to show them we love them in other ways, like belly rubs or talking sweet to them.

2. Don’t play rough and don’t play chase games. You can play fetch with Buddy once your parents have taught him how to give up the ball, but no tug or wrestling, especially when you are playing alone. It is best to play games with dogs only with a grown-up, because dogs sometimes make up their own rules.

3. Don’t ever use Buddy as a pillow, and never pull on any part of his head, ears, tail or body. Treat him very gently, he is very special!

4. Don’t eat treats around Buddy unless your parents are there and they have taught him not to bother your food. Some dogs may reach out to take a bite of your sandwich and end up accidentally nipping your fingers.

5. Don’t take Buddy on a walk unless an adult is going with you. If you meet an unfriendly dog, you or Buddy could get hurt. Walks are always best if a grown-up friend is along to help keep Buddy from pulling on the leash. You may need a special training collar or harness to keep him from pulling you and to keep him safe.


NOTE:  Because i received a very compelling email this morning from www.dogsbite.org this morning, which included a 911 call concerning a dog bite victim, plus, like everyone in the US at this moment after the CT shootings, the safety of our children is on my mind, I am going to go back to the work I did years ago, about dog bite prevention.  If you or your child has been bitten by a dog, will you share your stories with me?  You can reach me through the email listed on the Contact Page on this website.


Nothing is more important than the safety of your children.  Please do not leave young children unsupervised with any dog, and please do not adopt a dog for your family if you do not know the dog's background and feel 100% sure about the dog's ability to tolerate children.  Dog lovers do not want to hear this, but ALL dogs bite under the right circumstances.  It is our responsibility as adults to never let our children be in those circumstances.  Dogs do not have hands to push children away, they only have their teeth.  Also, it is so important to acknowledge that not all breeds of dogs are the same. Dogs that have extremely high prey drive, or fight drive (watch for an article about these subjects soon) are never safe around children.


Wishing you and your children, and pets, a safe and happy Christmas season.






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