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Dogs and Children

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According to current statistics Australians love their pets, with 40 per cent of households having a dog and 26 per cent having a cat. It is extremely important to understand the dynamics of pet ownership and care, especially when the household contains children.

Our pets fulfil a number of roles ranging from companions, farm helpers and assistance providers. Further research suggests that there are many positives in having a pet in the home. Helping to care for animals is a great way of teaching children responsibility.

It is essential that prior to purchasing an animal the family considers all the reasons for introducing a pet into the household and research the most appropriate type to meet their needs. Unfortunately impulse buying can lead to unnecessary problems. Pets are not a throw away item but a companion for life!

The choice of pet needs to take into account environmental and family lifestyle issues, financial considerations and time constraints. There is no use having an animal that relies on us to fulfil all its needs if the family doesn't spend a great deal of time at home.

Dogs and children form a very special bond. A family dog is often a key part of a child's formative years and tends to become their best friend, particularly for the single child. Children provide dogs with affection, opportunities for activity and interaction and dogs provide children with companionship and loyal friendship. By living with a dog, children also learn about responsibility and develop nurturing and caring skills. Children with pets generally have higher self-esteem and better social skills.

While pet ownership provides benefits for the child, parents should educate both themselves and their children to offset any risks. Due to dogs territorial nature it is unfortunate that young children can be bitten by a dog that they know. For this reason, children should always be supervised when around dogs. Dogs are pack animals and see themselves in an established pecking order

When introducing children to dogs it is imperative that children understand how to approach dogs, so that they are equipped to better handle themselves and minimize risk.

  • Never run towards a dog.
  • Avoid patting dogs you don't know.
  • Always get permission to pat a dog from the owner.
  • Approach a dog at an angle, not from the front or rear.
  • Slowly extend the back of your hand for the dog to sniff.
  • Stroke the dog gently on the side of the chest or under the chin (not the top of the head or shoulders).
  • Don't continue patting the dog if it backs away or doesn't sniff the hand. 

It is equally important for children to be able to read dog behaviour, as dogs can bite when frightened or provoked. Teach children to leave a dog alone and not run away or kick, squeal or jump if the following behaviours are exhibited.

A FRIGHTENED DOG:

  • Has its ears back.
  • Has its tail curled under its legs.
  • Tries to minimize its size by hunching or lying down.

AN AGGRESSIVE DOG:

  • Shows its teeth and/or snarls.
  • Has its ears laid back but not totally lowered.
  • Has its tail raised.
  • Tries to make itself bigger by raising its hackles and standing on the tips of its paws.

By providing your children with the necessary education, you can help to ensure that they have a rewarding relationship and loyal companion for life. You will also provide your dog with a comfortable environment in which they will aim to please you and the children.