By PETbc Childrens Education Department
When it comes to children and pet dogs around food, it is essential to establish clear rules and guidelines to ensure the safety of both the child and the dog, as well as to promote a harmonious environment.
Here are some rules to consider:
- Supervision: Always supervise interactions between children and dogs during mealtime. If the child is capable, allow it to place the dog’s food in a bowl on the floor. Never leave children alone with a dog that is eating.
- Personal Space: Teach children to respect the dog’s personal space when it is eating. Dogs may become defensive or anxious if someone approaches them while they are eating. Ensure that children understand they should not touch, bother or try to take food from the dog’s bowl.
- Teach Respect and Boundaries: Educate your child about the importance of respecting the dog’s space and not bothering it while eating. Explain that dogs have their own food and should not be disturbed during mealtime.
- Separate Feeding Areas: Consider feeding your dog in a separate area away from where your child eats. This minimizes the chances of accidental food sharing and reinforces the idea that mealtimes are separate activities for humans and dogs.
- Hand Washing: Teach children to wash their hands before and after handling food and again after interacting with the dog. This helps prevent the spread of germs between the child and the dog (or any other pet in the home).
- No Feeding from the Table: Encourage children not to feed the dog from the table or share their food directly with the dog. This can lead to unwanted behaviours in dogs and may contribute to begging.
- Training and Obedience: Ensure your dog has been trained and understands basic obedience cues, such as “sit”, “leave it” and “stay.” This can help manage your dog’s behaviour around food and prevent them from snatching food from a child.
- Safe disposal: Show children how to safely dispose of food scraps or leftovers to prevent the dog from getting hold of potentially harmful foods, such as chocolate, grapes or onions, which can be toxic to dogs.
- Reward good behaviour: Praise and reward both the child and the dog when they follow the established rules around food. This positive reinforcement can help imprint good behaviour.
- Consistency: Ensure that all family members, including adults, follow these rules consistently. Inconsistencies can confuse both the child and the dog, making it more challenging to establish good habits.
Remember that the safety and well-being of both your child and your dog are of utmost importance. By establishing and enforcing these simple rules, you can create a safe and respectful environment for everyone in the household.
If you have any concerns about your dog’s behaviour around your child, consult with a canine behaviourist from the Canine & Feline Behaviour Association www.cfba.uk