The Safe and Sound scheme is a Kennel Club initiative that promotes safe interaction between children and dogs.
About the scheme
The Safe and Sound scheme promotes and enlightens the general public on the benefits and rewards gained by owning dogs and interacting with them. The scheme teaches children how to stay safe when around dogs and how to recognise the warning signs when a dog is likely to bite.
The scheme aims to show adults how to be more responsible and to teach children some simple rules to stay safe. Key areas for a ‘Safe and Sound’ child/dog relationship involves:
- Selection of the right dog for your individual situation (there is no perfect dog for every circumstance)
- Careful pre-ownership planning, of when to have a dog join the family
- Responsible dog ownership and training
- Safe and sound educates all children, whether they live with a dog or not
There are many benefits to having a dog as part of the family, the combination can be a great one if managed properly. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes and can help to enrich our lives. Helping to take care of a dog is an excellent way of encouraging a child to take responsibility, express empathy, exercise and have fun.
Dogs can significantly help raise children’s self-esteem and improve their social skills. Their engaging characteristics, mannerisms and loyalty can provide companionship and aid relaxation. Stroking a dog can help to reduce anxiety too.
Behaving safely around dogs
Quite often dog bite incidents happen in a home environment and by a dog that is often known to a child. It is very important to understand basic safety rules around how to behave around dogs. The number one thing is always to ensure there is proper supervision and visiting guests should never touch a dog without asking first. You should also make sure your rules are consistent to avoid confusing your child and causing stress to your dog.
Young children can unwittingly encourage puppies to chase them. Making loud noises, high-energy play games, or running around waving your arms can result in a dog trying to chase you. This can encourage a dog to pull on your clothing or nip your ankles, so it’s important for children to learn how to be considerate.
A child may be aware of the rules but sometimes they forget so it’s important to stay actively involved to avoid any incidents and to never leave a child and dog alone together.
Never take for granted that any dog will be 100% safe with everyone all the time. Children should understand how to behave safely around dogs, but it is the responsibility of adults, especially parents, to make sure that these valuable child/dog interactions are nurtured to ensure everyone can live together safely. There are a number of reasons why a dog may bite - fear, frustration, inappropriate exposure or lack of socialisation to name a few.
Find out more about behaving safely around dogs.
Understanding the warning signs can be vital in preventing an incident from occurring. A dog might bite if it feels frightened or is provoked, so understanding how a dog wants to be interacted with and when to approach can support a happy partnership.
If a dog is worried, frightened or stressed it may look tense, stiffen its body, tuck its tail beneath its legs, or hold it firmly upright. You may also see a dog looking overly alert, with wide, whitened eyes, using their ears, yawning or licking their lips. These are some of the ways that dogs tell us they aren’t happy. The more subtle the signals usually come first, but some dogs might use a growl as a quick way of getting out of a potentially stressful situation. This is a sign to stop straight away.
Signs to be aware of
- Never ignore a dog’s warning growl, always step away if you notice this
- Dogs that are unwell, injured, or in pain, can sometimes appear a little grumpy and just want to be left alone
- If a dog you know starts behaving out of character it might be because they’re not feeling well
- Don't allow for play fighting or taunting the dog, to make it protective or jealous, because this can encourage a negative reaction
- Avoid allowing their face to be directly in contact with a dog’s face
Tips to keep children safe indoors
- Provide an escape route - always give your dog the option to move away from any interaction with children or adults and not be followed
- Give dogs their own safe space - where they can relax. Create a dog-only zone where they can go without being followed. If necessary, use a child-gate, puppy pen or safe space
- Dogs need their sleep - children need to understand that a puppy or adult dog is not a toy and should not be disturbed when resting or sleeping, so leave them alone
- Food manners - give your dog space when it’s eating. Parents should be able to remove a bowl or toy from a dog without issue
- Care when handling - care and supervision should be always observed when picking up a dog as they might struggle and wriggle out of their grip resulting in an injury. They may also scratch whilst trying to escape
- Be consistent - even older children and some adults can be excitable, so avoid over-stimulating your dog one minute, and then telling it off the next. Everyone must be mindful to consistently keep to the same rules to avoid confusing the puppy or dog. Visitors to your home should also be aware of these rules too
- Playing safely - teach children to behave calmly around a dog and never let them tease, startle or force themselves onto them. Young children are not known for their patience, so need to be taught how to be gentle, approach correctly and avoid overexcitement. Walking calmly, introducing some time out or stopping the game before it reaches a heightened stage can avoid incidents
- Approach - always check a dog knows you are beside it before they touch it. This can be done by speaking to it until it responds. If it doesn’t it must be left alone
- When not to approach - children should not approach a dog if it is eating, sleeping, in its bed, has a toy, is unwell or is trying to move away
Tips to keep children safe outdoors
Dogs like human company – meeting other dogs when you are out is part of everyday life. Teach your child that they should always ask the owner first if it’s okay before going near or touching a dog. Remember if the owner doesn’t give you permission, don’t touch the dog and walk away.
Dogs enjoy a walk, it is an everyday experience for a dog to enjoy some exercise, use their nose and explore their surroundings. Never let your dog run up to children or adults.
If a dog you don’t know approaches you:
- Stay calm, quiet and still
- Don’t stare, as this can worry dogs. Keep your gaze upwards so you can keep track of where they are without looking straight at them
- Drop any objects away from yourself that they are trying to get to e.g. Food
Dealing with jumping dogs
If a dog jumps up, keep calm. Cross your arms, turn and look away. If you get knocked over, curl up in a ball and cover your head with your arms until an adult comes to help
Dogs can easily knock young children over, just by them being playful with other dogs. If you are a dog owner, you can find out more about how to teach your dog not to jump up. If your child is knocked over and maybe frightened or concerned, then you can teach them a couple of top tips to handle the situation they are in.
Become a tree - what we do if a dog jumps up and frightens you
- Drop everything you are holding
- Fold your arms across your chest
- Tuck your chin in
- Don’t move
- Don’t scream
- Don’t run away
- Don’t move your arms
- Don’t stare at the dog
- Act casual
- You are now a tree
- When the dog moves away walk slowly and calmly away from the dog just keeping your eye on it. If it comes back be a tree again
- When the dog has gone away tell a responsible adult
Become a stone - what to do if a dog knocks you over
- If you have been knocked over by a dog and you are on the floor
- Don’t try to get up or make sudden noises
- Let go of anything in your hands
- Cover your face with your hands
- Keep your tucked elbows in
- Roll onto your front
- Keep your legs together
- Pull your knees up to your chest
- Tuck yourself up as tight as possible (protecting the major organs of the body)
- Keep still
- You are now a stone
- Don’t move until the dog has gone away
- After the dog has gone tell a responsible adult
Introducing a child to a dog
When introducing either a new puppy or new baby into the family, it is important to follow some steps to ensure both child and dog are happy, reducing the risk of potential incidents. Find out more on our keeping your baby and dog safe around each other page.
There is scientific evidence to confirm that when a baby has a dog in the home in their first year of life it can support their immune system and there is a reduction of allergies and asthma.
The posters below highlight key messages about how to stay safe. They are ideal for usage in schools, dog training clubs, libraries and child activity groups.
A dog needs to be able to cope in a variety of situations in order to enable it to behave appropriately. Owners should always manage their dog’s behaviour responsibly and supervise any encounters between a child and a dog in order to keep both safe.
If you are ever in doubt, always seek professional advice. If you have any further questions or need any advice on who to contact, please contact our team.