Growing up with a pet is a privilege for children and can teach them so many important life lessons about responsibility, friendship and empathy for all living creatures. Most of us who have had this privilege have many fond memories of our childhood companions and wish the same for our children. A parents’ worst nightmare however, must be for their child to be bitten by their beloved furry sibling, and no matter how much you trust your animals, there are certain precautions that should be taken to ensure this doesn’t happen.
When a child gets bitten by a four-legged family member, blame often falls on the animal and can have tragic consequences. It is more often than not avoidable and not always the animal’s fault. There are certain important skills that all children should learn which include reading an animal’s body language and knowing what is appropriate play and interaction.
Putting yourself in the animals “shoes” (or paws) may give some insight on whether certain interactions are appropriate. Would you like it if someone put their hands in your food? No? Then your dog is also likely not to like it. Would you like to be pounced on and woken up when you are sleeping? Would you like your ears being pulled? Would you like to be shouted at? Your animals are also most likely not going to like these kind of interactions.
A lot of animals are very tolerant and will put up with a lot and show only very subtle signs of discomfort, while others may have a much shorter fuse and show more obvious signs of being uncomfortable, such as growling. Some dogs may give no warning at all and bite. Learning to identify these subtle and not so subtle signs of anxiety and fear is important, not only for our children, but for all family members.