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Keeping Children Safe Around Pets

05 September 2014
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UK - Blue Cross has launched a new workshop for parents of young children to help keep them safe around the family pet.

With most dog attacks taking place in the home and one in six of those needing hospital treatment for a dog bite being aged under nine-years-old, the charity's advice, online and through the new workshops, is vital for parents, relatives and dog owners whose pet may be in contact with young children.

At 18-month's-old, Claire Ford-Terry needed two operations and plastic surgery after she was bitten on the face by the family's pet dog, Blue.

She said: "This new advice will really help parents understand their dog and will hopefully help them to prevent situations where their dog might snap or bite. Despite our dog being a lovely family pet and no previous signs of aggression, one day he snapped.

"While I don't blame Blue or anyone for what happened, more understanding about a dog's behaviour and the signs they show us may help parents to prevent things like this happening to other families."

Kerry Taylor, Blue Cross Education Officer said: "Most dog owners have lovely family dogs who they consider wouldn't hurt a fly. But for all dogs there are times when they can react in an unwanted way, for example around food, when woken, in pain or stressed.

"There are many benefits to having a dog in the family, but it is important to know how to all live safely and happily together. Understanding your dog's body language and teaching your child how to behave around dogs are so important for both your child's safety and your dog's wellbeing."

The workshop reveals common problems to avoid. Young children may like to kiss and cuddle their pet but the dog might not feel the same way and feel smothered, particularly if they are trying to get away or hiding. A child sometimes wants to play with the dog's toy themselves which will encourage the dog to try and take it back.

Other tips include:
• Never leave any dog alone with a child, even for a short time.
• Make sure your child leaves the dog alone when he's asleep or in his bed and when it is his feeding time.
• Make sure your dog has a 'quiet area' to have some time on his own if he needs some time out.
• Learn your dog's body language so that you can spot the earliest signs of stress.
• Keep your dog out of the way when feeding your child and don't let your child give them dog treats or their own food.

Paul Adams, Foster Care Development Consultant, British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF) said: "Through our adoption and fostering work we know how valuable pets are for helping children settle into and flourish in their adoptive families or with their foster carers, but this has to be within a safe environment. This workshop and advice given by the Blue Cross is a fantastic resource for any parents who are dog owners to help ensure that their children enjoy a safe and enriching experience with the family pet.

The advice is available through the charity's website and the workshop for parent and groups can be booked by emailing education@bluecross.org.uk or calling 0300 111 8950.

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