View Full Version : Vet blog post: kids & dogs: can they live together safely?

22nd August 2009, 12:22 AM
Daily Telegraph and TV3 vet Pete Wedderburn posted this great article (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/peterwedderburn/100005740/children-and-dogs-can-they-live-together-safely/) on his Telegraph blog today. Worth reading on site to get the live links within the piece for the kids resources, but this is the article:

Animals have become an important part of many families. But should parents be more careful about the way their children interact with their pets? Several times every year there are reports and photos in the media of children who have been bitten by dogs. Are there steps that parents can take to eliminate any risks?
Most children have a natural adoration of animals. From a child’s perspective, puppies are living, breathing, fluffy toys, and they loves to spend time with them, petting them and talking to them.
There has been copious research that demonstrates wide-ranging benefits to children from pets. The psychological benefits are well proven. Studies have shown that children who grow up around animals develop into more confident, socially adept individuals. Animals can help to teach children valuable social skills during a critical time in their psychological development. Children treat pets as their friends, and in the absence of verbal communication, they learn to use body language to understand each other. If a child learns to understand the body language of their pet, they will naturally extend that knowledge to have a better understanding of human body language in other situations later in life.
Pets also act as useful friends in difficult times for children. Animals are non-judgemental, and will always love their young owners. If the humans in the house are angry with a child, they can retreat to a quiet space with the pet. It can even seem as if a pet understands a child’s feeling of unhappiness. Some psychiatrists deliberately use animals to improve communications with children who may be troubled and may have difficulties communicating with humans.
So what about the risks? Dog bites do represent a serious health issue associated with pet-keeping. For example, in Belgium, one percent of the general population each year requires medical attention following a dog bite. And surveys suggest that around 50 per cent of dog bites are not reported to the medical authorities. Unfortunately, children do represent the most “at risk” section of the population.
Young children tend to “treat” their dog as a friend, and the most common physical interactions include touching, kissing, and hugging their pet. Children can have difficulty in recognising the difference between a friendly dog, and one that is irritated and may be about to bite. A young child is likely to carry on approaching a dog where an older person would realise that the dog was telling them to “back off”. Research shows that the majority of bites are triggered by an interaction initiated by the child.
The majority of dog bites occur in the home environment during everyday activities. They typically involve younger children (5 years of age on average) and their own dogs during times of no adult supervision. Any breed of dog can bite a child, but obviously, if a dog is bigger and stronger the consequences of a bite will be more severe. There are some well-known high risk situations that include approaching a dog while it is eating or sleeping.
So what can parents do to minimise the risk to their children? Adult supervision of child-dog interactions is very important. Parents should never leave young children completely alone with dogs. Children should be given firm guidelines about interacting with their pets. They should be taught that dogs have private space and private time. They should learn to leave dogs alone when they are sleeping in their beds, and when they are eating food.
Experts in the field have recognised that it can be difficult for parents to teach young children about the correct way to behave with dogs. An international initiative has recently developed an interactive computer story, known as the “Blue Dog”. This has been designed to assist children between the ages of 3 and 6 years, and their parents, in learning the principles of safe interaction with a dog in the home setting. The Kennel Club has also been proactive on this front, with an excellent interactive website known as “Safe and Sound”.
Dogs and children can mix well together, but it’s up to adults to make sure that they do: when problems happen, there’s no doubt where the finger of blame is pointing.

22nd August 2009, 05:58 AM
Thanks for posting this Karlin. Many times, you read a dog's description as "good with kids." I think this is backwards -- we should ask whether the kids are "good with dogs."

Of course, I think my two kids are the sweetest, most kind natured children on the planet. BUT, I never leave them alone with Holly. I would never forgive myself if something happened to Holly or my children. I think a lot of people believe they can supervise a dog with young children, but they just have no idea the intensity and consistency of supervision needed.

Having said that, the relationship between Holly and my children is really beautiful. I'm glad my children have Holly in their lives, and I'm glad Holly has them!

22nd August 2009, 06:25 AM
I agree, once again there is a posting in my local classified for a puppy that "needs to be in a home with adults" because it is not good with kids. That always makes me wonder what the person lets their kids do to the dog, and what a poor dog to start their life with someone who just doesn't get it. I wish my bf could handle another dog in our house.

22nd August 2009, 02:33 PM
It's the children that need to be trained, not the dogs! ;)

22nd August 2009, 05:15 PM
My two kids have never known a home without dogs. We had two wonderful "All American" mixed breeds when they were born. My daughter's first word was "gento" (gentle). It was her word for "dog". We were constantly tell her to be gentle with the dogs. As wonderful as my dogs were with my kids, they were always supervised (as were the kids!)


24th August 2009, 08:31 AM
What a great article, and oh how true!

i totally agree that it is children that need to learn how to behave around dogs, unfortunately to many children do not know how to approach let alone ask if it is safe to pet a dog. i personally think that 9 times out of ten it is the adults at fault for not teaching the children the correct way to approach & ask if they can touch.
The book sounds a fantastic idea and if more children were dog savvy there would be far fewer incidents.
i also believe that children & dogs should never be left alone unsupervised together for both of there sakes.

we have this alot with thor when we are out, as he looks like a big cuddly bear we are always being approached, a lot of children dive straight in either going to touch his head with out letting him have a sniff first or at times throwing there arms around his neck! thankfully he has been well socialised & doesnt seem to mind this.