Safety and dogs
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. In 2006/07, over 900 children aged nine or under were admitted to hospital in England after injuries caused by dogs (see overview at HES Online).
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
To minimise the risk of aggressive behaviour by your dog:
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
SafeKids recommends keeping your dog away from your baby for a few hours after you first come home. After that, introduce the dog on a lead
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
If your child is bitten
- 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
Parenting expert Eileen Hayes wrote this article in February 2004. This article was last reviewed by Heather Welford in September 2008.
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Source: BBC Health
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