Dogs and babies – what are the risks and how to introduce them safely

by | Oct 2, 2020 | Home Safety

Prior to having a human baby, did you refer to your family dog as your fur baby? Undoubtedly dogs become an integral part of any family unit but even the most loyal family pet can bite and injure a child. Before you bring your baby home, be aware of the risk of dog attacks and the importance of introducing dogs to babies safely. 

What are the risks of introducing dogs to babies?

Each week in Queensland an average of 18 children under 14 years go to hospital emergency as a result of dog attack. Children under 5 years are most at risk with the peak age group being 12-18 months.  

With children, injuries from dogs are most likely to occur in their own home and frequently in the home of a friend or relative where the dog is known to them. 

Dog attacks can occur irrespective of breed

Injuries include: 

  • Head, hand and face injuries that leave scarring 
  • Eye damage 
  • Bruising and lacerations 

Can I introduce my dog to my baby safely?

Dogs are pack animals and within the pack there is a hierarchy. When a new baby is introduced it disrupts the hierarchy and can induce anxiety or disruptive behaviour from the dog. Follow these simple guidelines to establish a good relationship from the outset. 

  • Dogs need to be trained 
  • Leading up to the birth, ensure you have established your role as pack leader and can control your dog with commands. 
  • Control your dog’s access to the baby by letting them smell at a distance at first and keeping the nursery off-limits. Better still, keep your dogs outside. 
  • Never leave the baby and dog alone unsupervised, particularly around food. 
  • Maintain your normal routine with the dog and don’t forget to give them attention. 

Dog safety guidelines for parents: 

  • Supervise children and dogs at all times 
  • Keep dog food and food bowls away from children 
  • Establish a feeding routine for your dog where they are not disturbed by children 
  • Learn about dog body language, bites and supervision 

Dog safety guidelines for children: 

  • Always ask the owner permission before approaching an unfamiliar dog 
  • Curl up their fingers and allow the dog to sniff the back of their hand 
  • Stroke the dog gently on the chest, shoulder or under the chin 
  • Stand still like a fence post if approached by an unfamiliar dog and don’t squeal, run or jump 
  • Avoid eye contact with the dog by looking at their own feet  
  • Read the dog’s body language and leave a dog alone when it lifts its lips, growls, backs away, raises the hair on its back or stares at them 
  • Don’t disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies. 
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still 

What the RSPCA recommends about dogs and children:

  • Dogs should be taught to immediately obey commands  
  • Answer to “come”, “sit” and “stay” from all family members  
  • Attend obedience school  
  • Dogs trained to guard should not mix with children 

Need some advice? 

Kidsafe Qld’s mission is to provide evidence-based practical advice to empower parents and caregivers to make informed choices to prevent childhood injuries. We are at your service and welcome any questions you might have around injury prevention and keeping kids safe at home, on the road and at play. 
Call Kidsafe Qld: 3854 1829 

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