Are dogs and toddlers a safe combination?

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Dogs and toddlers don’t always mix well together. We’ve all read horror stories about the tragic incidents in which children have been attacked and even killed by dogs. Just last week a child was horribly hurt in one such attack. So how do you go about teaching your toddler how to behave around dogs, if you’re not an owner yourself?

Since my daughter started toddling around, I’ve been conscious of her vulnerability. I don’t want to make her afraid of the world around her, but she’s still only a tiny thing. As all parents do, I worry about the risks of letting her run up to dogs – or dogs run up to her. So what should I do?

As with everything, when you have a young child you’re trying to balance risk and freedom. You don’t want to wrap your child up in bubblewrap all the time – but just one mistake around a dog could have terrible consequences. I don’t want her to grow up thinking all dogs are dangerous, but I know deep down that some of them are. 

I should make it very clear that I’ve got nothing against dogs myself. I know most dog owners are responsible and have their pets well trained. Children can learn a lot about the world from spending time around dogs, including the right way to behave around animals.

But at a year-and-a-half old, my daughter is too young to process a lot of dangers right now. And, put simply, a lot of dogs are badly controlled. Some of the littler ones we see when we’re out walking in the park yap and growl, which can be very scary if you’re a tiny person. Some of the larger ones, while friendly, are so intimidating by their sheer size. 

So what’s the best way to greet new dogs? Should I lift her up when dogs are around, or let her carry on walking and meet the dogs low down? Am I being overprotective? Or have you had a bad experience with a toddler and a dog? All advice and anecdotes would be gratefully received – hit me up in the comments. 

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  1. Steve Robinson on

    Years ago I often visited the local garden centre with my daughters, then aged 4 and 6. The 4yo was alone in another part of the place with the previously benign garden centre dog.

    Daughter came to join me at the till where I was paying the bill, she held my hand and I realised she was crying. The dog had bitten her from eyebrow to lip.

    My daughter was and still is sweet natured and would not have done anything untoward to provoke an attack. I never saw the dog again but it shows that even the most placid dogs can turn unexpectedly.

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