Pet ownership is a great experience and children especially enjoy close relationships with their pets whilst learning to love, respect and care for them.  With 80% of Australian households owning a pet, it’s extremely important to ensure that we not only teach our children to be responsible pet owners but we also educate them on how to behave safely around animals.

It has been estimated that more than 100,000 Australians are attacked by dogs each year and that over 60% of these dog attacks occur either in the family home or in the home or backyard of a family member or friend. With better education, obedience training and “knowing the warning signs” many dog bites can be prevented.

‘The Warning Signs’

Children should never be left alone with a dog regardless of how much you “trust” your pet. Even the friendliest dog may bite if annoyed, frightened or hurt. If you can’t supervise the interaction, separate them until you can give them your full attention.

During interactions it’s important to observe your pet closely. If any of the following occurs remove your child from the situation and give your pet some space:

  • Growing and snapping
  • Raised fur
  • Rigid body posture
  • Lip licking, yawning and averting gaze
  • Cowering and tail tucking
  • Seeing the whites of the eyes

Teach your children to:

  • Treat animals gently and calmly. Never hurt, tease, frighten, surprise or corner an animal.
  • Never enter a strange dog’s yard without the owner being present.
  • Avoid grabbing or cuddling a dog around the neck, as this can be frightening for animals.
  • Leave dogs alone when they are eating or near their food.
  • Stay away from sleeping dogs.
  • Take care not to get dogs too excited when playing with them.
  • Stay away from litters of puppies as mum may be protective.

When meeting a new dog, always teach your children to:

  • Check with you (or an adult) before greeting new people and dogs.
  • Always ask the owner before patting the dog.
  • Meet a dog by letting it come and sniff you.
  • Pat the dog gently on the shoulder rather than the head.

If your children are approached by an unknown dog, teach them to stand still and quiet with their hands by their sides and fingers curled up (like a post) and to avoid eye contact even if the dog smells them.

If your children are knocked down by a dog, teach them to curl up like a rock on the ground and use their arms to cover their head. Keep their eyes to the ground and stay as still and as quiet as possible.

If the worse happens and your child does get bitten, it’s important to act quickly. Restrain or confine the dog immediately. If possible ensure that the bite is washed thoroughly with disinfectant and water and seek immediate medical attention.