Guest blog by Emily Schneider, a proud mom of two feisty yorkies and a two-year-old living in the Garden State. Emily works in media and public relations for the ASPCA. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.
I’ve heard one too many stories of pet parents saying, “My dog is really friendly; he loves kids,” followed by utter shock and disbelief when their dog nips or bites a child. They wonder, “How could this happen? My dog has never bitten a child before.” In that situation, it’s natural to feel mortified, and all you can do is apologize profusely and scold your dog for behaving poorly.
That was me a few years ago, when my dog had a negative interaction with a child who was fortunately left unharmed, though maybe slightly traumatized and wary of dogs. When I had my son Jaden, I wasn’t confident since we had several close calls when our dog Mikey acted up around kids. My husband was also worried and wondered whether having a dog like Mikey was a good fit for our family. Gulp.
Did you know that 50 percent of children in the U.S. will be bitten by a dog before their 12th birthday, and that the majority of dog bites are from a dog the child knows? In conjunction with National Dog Bite Prevention Week May 18-24, here are some tips I’ve implemented so my son and dogs can live in harmony:
- Keep dog and kid toys separate. It’s easy for your dog to confuse his toy with a child’s toy because they look similar. Separate the two to avoid problems—I keep my son’s toys in his room, and bring out a few toys for the dogs to play with in the living room.
- Always supervise playtime. Even if your pets are good with kids, it’s important to keep an eye on your child and pet because accidents happen when you least expect it.
- Create a safe haven for your pet. Unlike Mikey, my other dog, Olive, prefers to watch Jaden from afar. When she gets overwhelmed, I take her to a quiet room where she can enjoy her alone time.
- Teach your child to be gentle with your pets, and to always ask an adult’s permission before approaching dogs they’re unfamiliar with. For more tips, visit the ASPCA’s page on dog bite prevention.
Time flies when you’re changing diapers, cleaning dirty bibs and washing a million pieces of a bottle—all on virtually no sleep. My son is a toddler now, and he’s feeling very independent—now that he can run, drive his toy car, and say, “my toy!” And while my husband and I consulted animal behavior experts to address Mikey’s issues, it’s important as parents—especially if you have both—to be extra mindful when your child is interacting with your pets or other dogs.