With the school summer holidays upon us, children and dogs will be spending more time together. We’ve produced advice for parents and children to help make sure this time is spent safely.

Group of children sitting with border terrier dog © RSPCAAccording to the Health and Social Care Information Centre, in 2013, the age group with the highest number of hospital admissions for dog bites was children aged between 0-9 years old. Hospital injury data also show that young children are more likely to be bitten by a family dog than one they don’t know.

We believe a key factor in reducing bite related incidents is understanding dog behaviour and how to interact safely around them.

That’s why we have worked in partnership with internationally-acclaimed vet and animal behaviourist Dr Sophia Yin to launch a series of materials. With the aim of teaching children how they should and should not interact with dogs. There is also a leaflet for parents highlighting different behaviours dogs use depending on how they feel.

Children and dogs can be great friends

Dr Sam Gaines, our dog welfare expert said,

“As a mother and dog owner myself, it’s clear that children and dogs can be really great friends. Dogs can also help children develop kindness, understanding and respect for living things. Having a dog as a friend can improve a child’s social skills with people and caring for a pet can encourage responsibility.


However, it’s important parents teach children how to interact with dogs in a safe way and understand and recognise dog behaviour so they can keep both happy, safe and relaxed.”

Six golden rules

We have put together the ‘Six Golden Rules’ for keeping kids safe and dogs happy:

  • Make sure your child is never left alone in the same room as a dog including your own dog.
  • Don’t approach dogs if they are eating or have food; have a toy or something else they really like; if they are sleeping or on their bed; are sick, sleeping, in pain or tired.
  • Remind your child to be kind, gentle and polite to their pets.
  • Teach your child to play nicely with their dog, by encouraging them to teach fun tricks like shake a paw, play dead and roll over.
  • Always supervise your child when they are with their dog, and look for signs that the dog might be feeling uncomfortable such as yawning, lip licking or avoiding eye contact.
  • Teach them not to approach an unfamiliar dog or one which you as parents don’t know to be friendly towards children.

We also recommend providing your dog with a cosy spot in a quiet room where they can retreat to if they need their own space. Teach your child to leave your dog alone when they are in their private spot.

Strengthen their bond

There are plenty of fun and safe games that kids can play with their dog to strengthen their bond with the family pet.

These include things like:

  • hiding treats in the garden for the dog to find;
  • playing games like fetch;
  • training simple tricks like roll over, high five, give a paw, hide and seek.

We have produced posters, leaflets and a short video to help support parents. For more information please go to www.rspca.org.uk/safeandhappy

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