As dog owners and parents we have a responsibility to care for and nurture our children and dogs in a safe environment. Dogs and children can be wonderful companions that enrich each other’s lives but when relationships go wrong, the consequences can be devastating.
Inquisitive and boisterous children are often very unaware of how their actions could provoke a dangerous attack from a dog. Parents can also be naive about the amount of training and preparation that is required to help their dog adjust to being around children.
The importance of educating kids about dogs
Statistics from The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that half of all children 12 years-of-age and under have been bitten by a dog (source). The data shows that 79 percent of fatal dog attacks are on children, too. Further studies reveal how dog aggression is often linked to children, and new research found that kinds rarely know how to approach frightened or angry dogs (and it's a huge problem).
In the vast majority of documented dog aggression and dog bite cases, the child knew the dog well. Clearly something needs to change, and it's best to start with educating our children on how to behave around dogs and understand canine behavior.
Thankfully, there's a growing awareness of the importance of teaching children and training dogs to live a happy life together with mutual respect. There’s a surprisingly wide range of educational resources and support services dedicated to the issue, many of which are free. Samantha has previously done a video on how to teach kids to be around dogs.
For more tips and ideas on how to keep our kids safe around dogs, here are 21 useful, actionable and (some) free resources for you if you have children and dogs at home.
21 Resources for Dog Owners with Kids
1. Living with Kids and Dogs
A comprehensive online library of resources for parents, pregnant couples and children. This website is jam packed with advice, articles, educational resources and links to other websites. It also offers discounts on multiple book purchases. It’s a great place to start if you’re considering bringing a dog into your family.
2. How to Love Your Dog
This highly interactive site is an educational playground for children who love and live with dogs. It features over 90 topics across 300 pages of games, facts, activities for children to do with their dogs, stories, poems and videos. The focus is on kindness, commitment, respect, and responsible dog care. It is suitable for children of all ages, from elementary grade to secondary grades.
1. The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project
This is a project that provides awareness and support to promote safe home environments for children and dogs. The website offers a wide range of resources including printable booklets, worksheets, facts, event schedules, dog safety songs and safety services.
2. Liam J Perk Foundation
This foundation was set up in memory of 2-year-old Liam. It offers awareness campaigns, support and resources for dog owners and parents to create safe and healthy environments for children living with dogs.
3. Doggone Safe
This US organization operates worldwide to promote safe human-canine interactions. It aims to prevent dog biting incidents, which can have terrible consequences for people and dogs. The website offers a wealth of resources to educate and support adults and children.
4. Family Paws
Family Paws offers educational programs, advice, resources and support to reduce stress and increase safety in homes with dogs and young children.
5. Safety Around Dogs
Safety Around Dogs offers a fun dog safety program for children. It consists of an activity pack, session plans and a DVD. This program emphasizes the importance of positive interactions between children and dogs as well as the importance of children understanding dog behaviors.
6. National Humane Education Society
The National Humane Education Society is concerned with animal welfare in general and not just canine welfare. It provides educational programs and materials for children and adults covering all aspects of responsible companion animal guardianship.
- READ THIS: The Ultimate Guide for Raising Kids with Dogs – 17 Things Every Parent and Dog Owner Should Know
Educational Resources and Games
1. The American Kennel Club activities for children
AKC has a number of free educational activity sheets, posters and coloring pages for children including:
- Sniff and Find: A Dog Show Activity (PDF)
- Responsible Dog Ownership Coloring Pages – Book 1 (PDF)
- Responsible Dog Ownership Coloring Pages – Book 2 (PDF)
- The Dog Listener – Safety Around Dogs Program (PDF)
- Responsible Dog Owner's Checklist Bookmark (PDF)
- How to Approach a Dog Poster (PDF)
1. My New Best Friend: Pet Preparation Program by Denise Holmes
This booklet and audio CD program is designed to help dog owners introduce their pet to life with a newborn baby. The CD introduces your dog to new baby-related noises so that they become familiar to him when your newborn arrives. The training manual outlines the step-by-step process you need to use to introduce your pet to baby.
2. Sounds Good – Babies by Terry Ryan
Another resource from DogWise – an audio CD to help desensitize your dog to baby noises that might unsettle him. It also contains guidance and advice for introducing your dog to your newborn child.
1. Dog Training for Children by Ian Dunbar, James & Kenneth
This short DVD teaches your child the core aspects of house and obedience training to encourage responsible ownership.
2. Dogs & Storks: Preparing the Family Dog for Life with Baby by Jennifer Shryock
This is an educational DVD produced by behavior consultant, Jennifer Shryock, for FamilyPaws.com.
Useful Reading and Books
1. Happy Kids, Happy Dogs: Building a Friendship Right from the Start by Barbara Shumannfang
A book with a focus on dog bite prevention. Happy Kids… contains easy to follow exercises and training tips to help develop a bond between dog and child.
2. Living with Kids and Dogs … Without Losing Your Mind by Colleen Pelar
Written by a trainer who is also a mom, this book is easy to follow, very useful and enjoyable to read. It covers training tips and information for every stage of your child’s development.
3. Raising Puppies and Kids Together – A Guide for Parents by Pia Silvani
Whereas most reference books focus on either puppy training around children or children training around puppies, this book for adults covers both.
4. And Baby Makes Four – A Trimester-By-Trimester Guide to a Baby-Friendly Dog by Penny Scott-Fox
She talks you through ways to prevent common issues such as jealousy, possessiveness, boisterousness and fear. And Baby Makes Four will help you to develop a loving bond between your dog and your baby, from the first trimester through to birth.
5. Good Dog! – Kids Teach Kids About Dog Behavior and Training by Evelyn Pang & Hilary Louie
Aimed at 8 – 12 year olds, Good Dog! teaches clicker training and reading canine body language to increase safety awareness.
6. Don't Lick the Dog – Making Friends with Dogs by Wendy Wahman
A colorful and fun how-to manual to help children read dog body language, especially the body language of unfamiliar dogs. Don't Lick the Dog is aimed at families who are introducing a new dog to the household.
7. May I Pet Your Dog? – The How-To Guide for Kids Meeting Dogs by Stephanie Calmenson
This book introduces your child to Harry the Dachshund who guides them through how to approach and behave around dogs. It’s a unique and easy to grasp book that is a joy to read with your child.
8. Be A Dog's Best Friend: A Safety Guide for Kids by Renne Payne
A similar concept to Stephanie Calmenson’s May I Pet Your Dog? but from the perspective of 10-year-old Ema. Be A Dog’s Best Friend is aimed at children of six to ten years of age but adults can also use it as a visual aid for discussion.
- VIDEO GUIDE: How to Train a Dog to Behave Around Kids