Dogs can be a great companion for young children. They can be playmates and help teach your child responsibility and empathy as they grow up together. While you are probably aware that you need to set appropriate boundaries to protect young children from the dogs in your life, you may not consider that your dog can also be injured by an overly enthusiastic child. Ideally, you will teach a mutual respect between your dog and your child, but during the early years of your child's life, there are several things that you should look out for in order to make sure your pet stays healthy and safe.
Know Common Issues to Watch Out For
You should know the common injuries that dogs can suffer when they are around children so you can prevent them before they happen.
- Swallowed objects. If your child's toys are laying around the house, it is likely that a curious dog will chew on one and possibly swallow it. This can cause choking and possible damage to the internal organs of your dog. Signs of a swallowed object include choking, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you think your dog has swallowed one of your child's toys, you should call your vet immediately. To prevent this problem, you should make sure your child puts their toys out of the dog's reach and limit the amount of toys your child is playing with at any given moment so some toys do not accidentally get left out.
- Soft-tissue damage. Sprains, strains, and bruising can happen when your child pulls on your dog, steps on them, or otherwise plays too roughly. Many well-trained dogs will allow this type of behavior from toddlers, even if it is hurting them. It is important that you teach your child how to interact with your dog from the beginning and closely monitor them. If your dog does suffer soft-tissue damage, you should keep your child away from them while they are recovering.
- Sharing human food. Some human foods, such as chocolate, can be toxic to dogs. Young children may not understand this and will want to share their treats with their animal friend. It is important to teach your child to eat their treats in a designated area, such as at the table, and to not offer human food to the dog.
Teach Your Child Appropriate Ways To Interact With Your Dog
From a young age, children can learn how to interact with dogs. You will have to monitor their behavior closely and teach them to touch the dog softly in areas where your dog enjoys being pet, such as along the back or belly. You should always intervene if you see your child getting too rough with your dog, but instead of only forbidding behaviors, you should show your child how they can interact with the dog. For example, instead of allowing your child to step on your dog, teach your child that they can call the dog to them or have them sit.
Model Appropriate Behavior In Your Life
Children will sometimes terrorize pets if they feel frustrated or want attention. Often, children will feel powerless and so they will take out their frustrations on animals. By treating your child with respect and giving them room to express themselves to you, you give them an outlet that can help prevent them from bullying your dog when they feel sad, scared, or angry.
If you often yell at your child or spank them excessively, they may try to pass these actions on to your household pet.
Keep Your Vet's Phone Number Handy
Even if you are diligent about watching your child and pet, accidents can happen. It is important to have your vet's number handy so you can contact them immediately if you suspect that your dog has been injured while playing with your child.
For more information and tips, contact your local vet clinic, such as Pet Medical Center – Full Service Veterinary Care.