Guidance aimed at helping parents and carers reduce the risk of dogs harming babies and children has been published for health visitors to pass on to families.
The Institute of Health Visiting today announced its new “parent tips” guide on the issue, which has been highlighted in recent years through a series of tragic stories appearing in the media.
“There is a lot that parents can do to reduce the risk of dogs harming babies”
It said the guide was intended to provide advice to parents looking forward to welcoming a new baby into the home, as well as those who already have children and a dog in the household.
The guide – titled Keeping babies and children safe around dogs in the home – should be shared with friends, neighbours, carers and relatives, noted the institute.
It highlighted that having a dog in the family had many benefits – from making children very happy and confident, through to teaching them about responsibility and how to respect living things.
But it stated that, while people often viewed dogs as being “part of the family”, it was important to remember that they were a different species.
In addition, it highlighted that, from the dog’s point of view, children behaved very differently to adults, being unpredictable and prone to making a lot of noise.
Meanwhile, children tended to interact with dogs in the same way as they did with their friends, for example, by hugging and cuddling them, and telling them off.
The institute also noted that children often used very close facial contact that was very different to dog social behaviour and many dogs could find threatening.
It is for these reasons, the guide said, that children were more likely to be bitten than any other population group and were far more likely to be bitten by a dog owned by their own family than an unfamiliar one.
Dr Cheryll Adams, executive director of the institute, said: “Far too often we hear tragic news stories of a baby or young child being attacked by the family pet.
“There is a lot that parents can do to reduce the risk of dogs harming babies and children – and our new ‘parent tips’ provides this advice for parents and carers,” she said.