Dogs and Children: Top tips to keep them safe and happy together
The bond between your child and dog can bring fun and happiness to family life. While we don’t expect our own dog to bite, it’s important to remember any dog can bite if they feel they have no other option.
And, in fact, children are most likely to be bitten at home, by a familiar dog. Last year, over 1,700 children were admitted to hospital with dog bites.
Luckily, most bites are also preventable.
Use our Safety around dogs fact sheet to help keep your child safe and your dog happy.
If you have a baby on the way, our Your dog and new baby fact sheet helps you prepare your dog for your new arrival.
These fact sheets are also available in Arabic, Bengali, Punjabi, Polish, Urdu and Welsh.
Dog safety essentials
Dogs Trust and RSPCA both recommend two essentials for keeping your child safe
- close supervision when dogs and children are together
- understanding your dog’s body language
Close supervision keeps children safe
Close supervision can feel like a big ask. But Dogs Trust breaks it down into three key things:
- Stay close – watch, listen and stay close so that you can respond before anything bad happens.
- Step – in – intervene if your dog or your child is behaving unsafely or if either one looks uncomfortable.
- Separate – keep children and dogs separate when you know you’re likely to be distracted, like during the morning rush, making the dinner, or answering the front door. You can use a safety gate, put your dog in another room, or take your child or dog with you.
Your dog’s body language
Your dog’s body language tells you how they’re feeling. Being able to spot the signs early and separate your dog and your child helps you to stop a situation from becoming risky.
The RSPCA outlines distinct behaviours that dogs show when they are worried and when they are angry or very unhappy. Examples include:
- A worried dog may have their head low and ears back with tail tucked.
- An angry dog may have a tense body, weight forward with their ears and tail up, looking directly at you.
Remember every dog is an individual and may have different ways of showing that they are uncomfortable, worried or anxious. We need to get to know these signs in our own dog so that we can step in early. Use these guides from the RSPCA and Dogs Trust to help you better understand your dog.