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How to help children & dogs get along

Dogs and children don’t always end up having a dreamy lifelong companionship as is usually portrayed in movies. Sometimes, for whatever reason, they just don’t get along. However, there are some things you can do to try and steer them towards becoming BFFs.

Firstly, it’s important to remember that dogs are animals. This means that they can be unpredictable at times and even the most trusted, friendliest, most seemingly harmless dogs can attack if accidentally frightened by a child.

It’s important that both you and your child recognise and understand your dog’s distress signals. Children can be very noisy and chaotic, with lots of screaming and shouting and even when kids are being loving by giving lots of kisses and cuddles, this can come across as threatening to a dog. The RSPCA has a great visual resource for learning about a dog’s behaviour to help you get a better understanding of how they are feeling.  It will help you to recognise the warning signs and avoid any accidental nips or bites.

To keep your child safe, you need to make them aware that not every dog will be as friendly as yours. Help them to develop techniques so that when they approach a new dog, they know what’s appropriate and what’s not. Always ask the owner if the dog can be touched first and never stroke a dog that is tied up. Toddlers often get into hot water with dogs as they are at eye-level with them and a stare can be interpreted as a threat by a dog. It’s also important to understand that no particular breed of dog is safer than another, despite what you may read in the news. The Dog’s Trust has some great free downloadable resources and videos to help children learn how to be safe around dogs.

Dogs are a great way to teach children compassion, empathy and patience and building a strong, healthy relationship with a dog will really enrich a child’s life.