I’ve spent a lot of time in recent columns focused on what you should do to introduce your dog to your baby. Today I’ll emphasize what not to do with your baby and your dog. The first few are kind of obvious.
Do not use your dog as a baby-sitter. I guess I got this dream from the book Peter Pan, in which the three children were watched and put to bed by their big Newfoundland, Nana. Apparently this doesn’t work in real life.
Do not dress your baby in meat or meat products. This will make the dog too interested in the baby, perhaps not in the way you intend.
Do not use peanut butter-scented baby lotion. This will only serve to confuse the dog.
In all seriousness, though, there are many dangers that can occur with dogs. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 4 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year, and 60 percent of them are under age 15. The rate of dog bite-related injuries is highest for children ages 5 to 9, and the rate decreases as children age.
The good news, though, is that education and awareness can help prevent these bites.
The most important thing to remember with your dog and your baby is to NEVER leave the baby unattended with the dog. Dogs and babies are unpredictable.
When your baby gets older, you can teach him or her some basic safety around dogs. Here are a few DO NOT DOs when it comes to dogs and toddlers (or even older children):
Never approach an unfamiliar dog. “May I please pet your dog,” is an important phrase to teach all children who love dogs. If your child approaches a dog without the dog’s owner, like one tied up outside on the sidewalk, it’s best to steer clear.
Do not pet a dog without allowing the dog to see and sniff you first. Dogs aren’t much into surprises. I do not recommend throwing a dog a surprise party either.
Do not disturb a dog when the dog is eating. You will have, of course, trained your own dog out of resource guarding, but not all dogs will be as well behaved as yours.
Avoid direct eye contact with unknown dogs. Dogs can take this as a sign of aggression or challenge.
Be careful when approaching a dog that is caring for her puppies. There’s nothing more protective than a mama dog, except maybe a mama bear. Or goose. I’ve been hissed at by some very angry mama geese before.
If you or your child is approached by a strange dog, here are important steps to follow.
Do not run from a dog and/or scream. It’s best to remain motionless when approached by an unfamiliar dog. Any sudden movements will serve only to threaten them further.
If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still. Here’s a fun rhyme: If knocked down by a dog. Lie like a log. A log that is shaped like a ball.
Immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior. Call the local animal care and control center.
If bitten, treat the bite immediately. Clean the bite wound with antibacterial soap and water as soon as possible and then seek medical attention. If the bite seems mild, consult your regular doctor. However, if you’re not sure of the severity of the bite, it’s best to head to the emergency room. Dog bites are easily infected, so they might require antibiotics.
The best thing you and your child can do is to learn to read dogs’ body language. There are many signs that a dog feels uncomfortable or threatened and may bite. These include ears perked up, low rumbling growls, and baring front teeth.
Has you or your child ever had an experience with an attacking or biting dog? Tell us about it in the comments.
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