Ohana means family, and most of us with household pets consider them to be a part of ours. Man’s best friend can not only stick by your child’s side for years to come, but they can also teach our children valuable life lessons such as responsibility, patience, and unconditional love.

Unfortunately, with any animal, domesticated or wild, there is always a risk of injury. Dogs have different instincts, triggers, and motivations than humans do, so it’s impossible to always understand exactly what’s going through their heads. Follow these simple suggestions to ensure your family is as safe as possible, and lower your chances of an injury.

Never Leave Your Child Unattended

No matter how much you think you know your dog, or swear that they would never hurt a fly, there is always a chance they can injure your child. Since the majority of dog bite victims are individuals the dog is already familiar with, it’s safe to say that a biased observation isn’t adequate proof that your dog won’t bite. Never leave your children alone with an animal. Children don’t have the full capacity of emotions and understanding warning signs, and may not realize their behavior is antagonizing.  

Start a Feeding Routine

Many dog bites happen because the victim was too close or interrupted the dog during feeding time. Get your dog’s meals on a schedule. Feed them at the same time(s) every day, in the same location. Keep your kids away from the feeding area to avoid complications. When the feeding is done, clean up and remove any food bowls, even if they’re empty. Dogs can still become defensive over an empty bowl.

Don’t Allow Begging

Allowing your dog to beg for food or constantly giving them table scraps makes them think it is acceptable behavior and that they are entitled to your food. Stop this immediately. Mealtime for humans and dogs should be completely separate. This doesn’t mean you can’t still implement healthy scraps here and there, just mix them with the dog’s food and serve at feeding time. Don’t let your toddler wander around with snacks. Supervise them at all times, especially when food is in the picture. Even a dog just wanting a taste can cause harm when trying to take it out of a child’s hand or mouth.

Follow the Leash Laws

The state of Florida has no state mandated leash laws, but there are county ordinances you are required to follow. In Volusia County, dogs must be leashed, humanely restrained, or controlled by voice command anytime they’re off of the owner’s property or at any public place such as a dog park. This ensures your dog is restrained from attacking another person or dog, which in turn protects you and your family if other dogs are leashed.

Never Approach Unknown Dogs

To animal lovers, and people who want to ‘pet all the dogs’, this one may seem like a bummer, but it could be life saving. Educate your children early on that not all dogs are stranger friendly or can tolerate kids. Teach them, lead by example, that they should never approach or coax an unknown dog to try to pet them.

Posted by Kristen Gavin