RSPCA urge parents to teach children to be safe around dogs

The RSPCA is urging parents to teach children to be safe around dogs as the government calls for education programmes.

The animal welfare charity is urging parents to learn and use its ‘Six Golden Rules’ to ensure positive interactions between children and dogs as a government committee called for education programmes to reduce the number of dog bites.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee released a report this week, following an inquiry into Section 1 of the current Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, which applies Breed Specific Legislation.

The RSPCA has long been calling for an inquiry into the effectiveness of breed specific legislation (BSL), which prohibits the ownership of four types of dogs based solely on their appearance.

As part of the animal welfare charity’s #EndBSL campaign, experts presented evidence of how the law has failed to protect public safety and has seriously compromised dog welfare.

EFRA’s report has called on the government to launch a full-scale review of current dog control legislation and policy. One of the Committee’s recommendations was for the government to facilitate childhood education programmes on dog safety and run awareness-raising campaigns encouraging responsible ownership and safe human-dog interaction among owners and the general public.

RSPCA dog welfare expert, Dr Samantha Gaines, said: “As a mother and a dog owner myself, it’s clear that children and dogs can be really great friends. Dogs can also help children to 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.

“But, just as parents teach their children how to act around traffic and how to safely cross the road, it’s also their responsibility to understand themselves and show youngsters how to behave when they’re around their own other dogs – either in public places, or in private homes and gardens.”

According to data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, the age group with the highest number of hospital admissions for dog bites was children aged under nine.

Hospital statistics also show that young children are more likely to be bitten by a family dog rather than one they don’t know.

The RSPCA has six golden rules for keeping kids safe and dogs happy:

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

The RSPCA partnered up with certified clinical animal behaviourist Julie Bedford and vet and animal behaviourist, the late Dr Sophia Yin to develop material for parents and teachers. They produced the Six Golden Rules for keeping children safe and dogs happy.

Dr Gaines added: “Unfortunately, we know that children are most likely to be the victims of a dog bite incident and we believe one of the ways we can ensure less children and dogs are involved in these traumatic experiences is to better educate parents and kids on how to safely interact with dogs and void high-risk behaviours.”

For more information about dog and children is available on the RSPCA website at www.rspca.org.uk.