Study highlights the importance of teaching children safe skills around dogs

Parents often underestimate the risks to small children around their family dog

Getting a New Puppy

A recent study published in the  Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research found that the bite risk to small children around their family dog is often underestimated. In addition, researchers from the Institute of Animal Husbandry and Animal Welfare at Vetmeduni Vienna found that supervision alone is not enough to keep small children safe around dogs. Pet caregivers need to focus on more than just being present and teaching children safe skills around dogs.

The study set out to analyze parental attitudes about every day interactions between small children and family dogs. The findings included that although parents are aware of the bite risks to small children around unknown dogs, they underestimated the potential risks around their family dog. This assumption that the family dog will tolerate more than an unknown dog sets up situations where parent’s attention towards dog/child interactions are reduced and children are permitted to have unlimited access the family dogs. In addition, many parents and children are unable to recognize when their dogs feel uncomfortable or harassed which can be the events that lead to the dog snapping or biting the child.

Parents can do the following to keep small children safer around dogs:

  • Provide your dog with child-free resting and eating areas. These must be areas that your dog has access to at any time, that are off limits to your children.
  • Just being in the room is not enough. Parents should provide attentive observation in all interactions between their children and dogs.
  • Provide guidance to your child about how to safely interact with all dogs. Demonstrate gentle touch, give alternatives to hugging and kissing the dog, and practice the SAFE game.

Four ways to be SAFE around your dog

  • Soft touch, not too much

    pat the dog gently on the chest and side

  • Ask the dog

    if they’ve had enough, that’s OK

  • be a Friend

    don’t bother when eating or sleeping

  • Enjoy, but not as a toy

    don’t ride, push, or dress up your dog

SAFE Wall Chart Dogs You Know

Check out our recent article in on that highlights dog bite prevention skills for every day interactions between kids and dogs.

Download our SAFE infographic on the four ways to stay SAFE around dogs they know, along with our wall chart and kid’s ebook, plus other free SAFE resources including our new video SAFE for Dogs You Know.

Share with us how your family and friends have used and practiced SAFE. Share your pictures on our social media. We’d love to hear from you. Let’s keep kids SAFE!

Download the SAFE Dog Bite Prevention Kit for Kids

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