Sadly, in recent times dogs have received a lot of bad press. This has made parents wary about bringing a puppy into the home or even allowing one near their children when out and about.
Children can pick up fear from their parents and other adults. We should never allow a child to feel our fear whether it is of spiders and snakes or perhaps the close proximity of dogs. The majority of dogs are safe and friendly creatures but in the wrong hands they can cause harm even if it is not intentional.
Approaching a dog
Have your child get to know dogs and learn to stroke and pat them gently. If neighbours or family have pets let your child get used to being around them from an early age. Any dog will become startled by hands flapping wildly about them or loud shrieks. Some dogs are bomb proof but assume that any dog not known to you will become upset by a child grabbing at them or shrieking loudly near their face. First ask the dog owner if your child can stroke their dog. If they agree hold the back of your hand in front of the dog’s nose so it can recognise your smell. Stroke the neck or back of the dog and encourage your child to do so. Let the dog see what you intend to do. The owner will have the dog on a lead so it should stand still and not run around whilst being petted by your child. Encourage the child to ask questions about the dog, its age, name and what it likes to eat. The child will soon know the dog as a friend and not some strange animal that would attack and bite them. In time the child can take the lead and under close observation walk up and down with the dog gaining confidence at the same time.
A child alone
Never under any circumstance allow a dog and child to be alone, not even for a few minutes. There is no knowing what can happen and we are all aware of the horror stories when a family pet bites or even kills a child. Supervision is the key at all times.
Picking a dog
A puppy makes any family complete. Include a child in the process of picking the right breed of dog and reading about puppies and dogs in books and online. The family should go together to visit the breeder and get to know the puppy before the day comes that the dog goes to its new home. Keep in touch with the breeder and let them know of any problems you are encountering. If you have picked the right breeder through the Kennel Club Assured Breed Scheme you would have found a friend for life as well as a new dog for the family. Allow the children in the family to be part of the feeding, grooming and cleaning up regime that comes with the introduction of a new puppy in the family. This will be an exciting time in any family and will instill in any young children what great companions dogs really are and not the scary monsters they are made out to be.
Visiting a school
If there have been fears about dogs in your child’s nursery or school contact a pet charity such as Pets As Therapy (PAT) or a local dog training club to visit the school and introduce young children to dogs in a safe environment. To see a dog doing tricks and being allowed to touch them will show young children that they have nothing to fear. They will be told how to act around dogs which will give confidence to the child who is full of fear.
Dogs should always be on a lead outside the home. If you notice loose dogs in your neighbourhood this could cause a problem. Loose dogs can make a mess, approach other dogs, run into the road and cause accidents or in a very few instances bark and growl at people in the vicinity. Every council employs dog wardens and these are the people you need to contact regarding loose dogs. For one thing these dogs may be lost and the owner distraught and looking for them. If they have been abandoned or even treated like latch key children they need to be rounded up. Do not attempt to approach the dog unless you are totally sure it is safe to do so. Never let your child approach the strange dog unless you are in control of the situation.