Teaching Safe Play
August 15, 2017

Having a dog in your home with your children is incredibly beneficial. Your child can learn so many life lessons from growing up with a dog. Responsibility, empathy, and entertainment are just a few of the many things a dog can give your family. However, there are some worries and fears that come along with any child interacting with a dog. What if they get irritated and bite your child? What if you child is too rough? The key to solving these issues is to teach your children early on how to play with all pups, not just your own. Here are some tips on teaching this important skill!

Problems That Can Arise

Children and dogs are fundamentally different in play, which can lead to issues. Children often like to grab, roll on the ground, and be loud when they are playing, which they can easily do when they are playing with a dog. When a child does this, dogs sometimes see this a “dog play”, which can lead them to jumping or being rough. This difference in body language can cause problems. In a situation where your dog is playing rough, they may hear the yelling or squealing your child makes as fun instead of distress.

Keys to Avoiding Conflict

There are a few main tips you should teach your child when it comes to playtime.

  • Do not roll on the ground: As we’ve shown, rolling on the ground can be read as an invitation to play roughly with your child.
  • Supervise ALWAYS: No matter how calm or happy your dog is, always supervise. Your child cannot read a dog’s body language as well as you can. This can lead to them irritating your pup when they are already annoyed, and therefore lead to accidents.
  • Teach your child basic body language: Show examples or pictures to demonstrate to your child the warning signs of unhappiness. These include bared teeth, curled lip, stiff posture, and growing. Once your child learns these, they can better understand the signs of annoyance and know when they back off.
  • Stand up when you are playing: This avoids the “dog play” situation.
  • Keep playtime short and sweet: Having the game go too long can cause your dog or your child to get overly excited and lead to incidents.

Be in Control

It is very important that you or your child is always in control of playtime. You decide when playing begins and when it ends. You can do this by keeping certain playtime toys out of reach from your dog, making you to the only person that can start the game. Having structured rules can help this issue as well.

Find Easy Games

Play easy games that aren’t too challenging for your child or your dog. Keep it simple and quick to ensure playtime is fun for everyone involved. Some ideas are fetch with a ball or another toy. To make this even safer, you can use two balls. Your child will throw one ball, which your dog will then retrieve. When they return with the ball, have your child throw the second ball. Once your dog drops the first ball, your child can pick it up, avoiding any chance of biting.

As always, remember to supervise at all times. If you make sure you are always present and watchful, your child and dog will have a positive connotation of playtime. Enjoy!

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