Who can upstage the combination of kids and dogs? They just go together. Remember Timmy and Lassie, Spanky and Petey, the list goes on. But unfortunately, there aren’t too many Lassies, and fortunately, there was only one Spanky.

Statistics show that most serious injuries caused by dog bites involve medium to large breed dogs and children under the age of 5. The reality here is the dog is usually the family’s pet, or a dog that the child knows well and has had contact with before.

Generally speaking, both the child and the dog need to be taught the dos and don’ts of proper behavior, as well as learning to respect each other for what they are. By this, I mean a child will play with a dog as though it is another child and the dog will play with a child as though it is another dog. But let’s start with the scenario of a child meeting a non-family-pet.

1. A child should know to ALWAYS ask permission to pet a dog no matter how friendly the dog looks or acts.

2. A dog must be approached slowly. The child should extend their hand in front of the dog’s face so the dog can smell the child.

3. Never pet the dog by reaching over its head. That is a huge mistake and one that I see all the time. It will often make the dog lift its head up and back and open its mouth. Sometimes “going over the top,” as it is called, will be interpreted as a threatening gesture. Pet the dog under his chin.

4. Caution is advised when approaching a sick, injured, nursing or elderly dog.

5. Children should never run towards a dog or throw their arm around it.

6. Never tease a dog or throw things at it, it causes the dog to become agitated.

7. As a rule do not let your child take a toy or food away from a dog or bother it when it’s sleeping.

8. Children must know without exception to never reach their hand out to touch a dog that is kenneled, in a car, in the back of a truck or behind a fence.

Ever wonder why your new puppy or dog is nipping your child and not you? Observe the interaction between the two and take note of how they play with each other. Does your child play tug-of-war with your dog? Did your child see you do that? Tell the truth! Well that is something dogs do with each other.

Does your child love to have your dog chase them? Again, something dogs do with each other. See the pattern. If the puppy thinks your child is another puppy, she/he will nip, jump on, scratch and bark at your child. Of course the puppy must be taught to have “social grace,” but additionally your child must learn to handle the puppy/dog properly, by never teasing, hitting, pulling its tail or ears, startling, cornering, chasing, or inappropriately taking food or toys away. NEVER let your child reach under the kitchen or dining room table to grab your dog. No one should ever do that. Here’s a quick tip; if your child is sitting on the floor and the puppy is out of control, teach your child to stand up and turn away from the dog.

One more thing, dogs will always pick on the weakest of the pack, in this case…the pack being your family. Never mistreat your dog; he may in turn harm you child.