Child Safety: On Dogs, Dog Parks and Small Children

by Borderstan.com May 13, 2009 at 9:08 pm 1,660 4 Comments

This is already part of my posting about the Shaw Dog Park celebration on Saturday, but I feel so strongly about it that I am posting it separately.

Here is my plea to parents of small children who bring them to a dog park. I beg you: PLEASE do not allow your small child to be on the ground inside the dog park. I was at the Shaw Dog Park tonight and a small girl (perhaps a year old) was sometimes allowed to stand on the ground while about 15 dogs ran around. At one point, her parents took her out into the middle of the dog park–dogs were running around in all directions. I have to assume that parents who allow their extemely small children to mix with unknown dogs simply don’t know any better.

I am not a dog expert, but I grew up with dogs and many members of my family have had or currently have dogs. Moreover, I own a dog. She is a sweet dog and very playful. Lately, however, some small children in the neighborhood have been teasing her and it has made her suspicious of kids in the 4- to 6-year-old range.  So, here is what I know about dogs and small children from years of experience:

  1. Dogs can be spooked by extremely small children. Little kids make funny noises and they move in a jerky, uncertain manner. Sometimes this frightens dogs. Herding dogs, in particular, often have a desire to herd small children, to make them behave and be quiet.
  2. When you are at the dog park, you have NO IDEA about the behavioral patterns of the other dogs there. Furthermore, the other dogs are not used to your small child. Just because your small child gets along well with your dog, you should NEVER assume that other dogs will.
  3. Your small child could be hurt simply by being knocked to the ground by a friendly dog.
  4. Even a small dog can hurt your child.
  5. Yes, yes, I know. You stand by your small child in the dog park. Well, have you noticed how fast some of the dogs are? Do you really think you could grab your child before one of the [larger] dog lunges at him or her?
  6. Yes, it is very important to socialize your dog and child together. As I said, I grew up with dogs. I love them. But YOUR dog is not the same as 15 strange dogs at the dog park.
  7. Dogs are animals. Period. They also have strong jaws and teeth that are designed to rip apart flesh. Get it?
  8. These rules also apply on the street or in public when you and your child see a dog. NEVER assume that it is okay for your child to “pet the pretty doggy.”

  • xtexann

    As a parent of a two-year-old and a dog owner, I am staggered by the folly/stupidity of the parents described in this posting. I can think of dozens of reasons why a parent should NOT bring a child into a fenced dog park and not a single good reason to bring them in. The possibilities for accidents are endless.

    At our own dog park (where children under 10 are not allowed inside the fenced area for any reason, even when accompanied by an adult), I have seen adults knocked to the ground more times than I can count by dogs racing around in play. Imagine what could happen to a toddler when 30 (or more!) speeding pounds of dog careens into them and knocks them to the ground or into a bench. It can happen in the blink of an eye. This is why a child should not even be brought into the park carried in your arms. There is still danger.

    Matty also is so right that parents have no way of knowing how a pack of strange dogs will react to a child. No matter how friendly they are, all dogs have a prey drive and a natural instinct to chase. Those instincts are often heightened in the off-leash atmosphere of the dog park. To have someone small in those confines with unknown dogs is just tempting fate.

    Protect your own children and other owners’ dogs by leaving your kids at home. It’s just not worth the risk to bring them.

  • Candida

    Matty, thank you for this posting. While not a parent myself, I am an aunt to a 2-year old and could not imagine taking her into the vicinity of racing, unleashed dogs. Her parents (my brother and his wife) I am sure would kill me! I DO hope the parents you describe will read this posting and take it to heart. There are plenty of safer opportunities for one’s child to interact with pets. The dog park should be reserved for dogs and their owners, allowing the dogs to freely chase and run and play, giving them a chance to let off steam without risking accidents with other, unrelated humans.

  • BackfromBoulder

    Matty is absolutely correct to point out the folly of parent who would be so negligent as to let small children play in the middle of a pack of dogs at play! If something were to happen to the child, the poor dog owner would have to pay for the parents negligence.

    As a parent and a dog owner, I can find few things more exemplary of child endangerment than this. In fact, and I loved my recently deceased dog to death, I would never leave leave my daughter and beloved hound alone! As much as my dog was gentle and kind, I know that he was about 1/2 a second away from snapping at my little girl when the “play” got to frenetic.

    I once let my pure bred American Eskimo join in on some rough housing type dog-play at a park near Rock Creek. Unfortunately, the German Shepard leading the play took a dislike to my dog, grab it by the neck and, clenching it in its jaws, shook my dog fiercely and pushed my dog into dirt! Imagine what would happen to a 23 pound child.

    Please parents…dogs are not wily children and children are not well behaved, reasonable dogs. Like booze…never mix, and you’ll never worry.

  • MissyMay

    I agree with ALL of the above and add that dogs in a fenced park do not even need to pay attention to little children to hurt them. Once the dogs are playing and start that crazy mad chase that they love so much. A running pack of dogs just has to run past a two-year old close enough to knock him/her down, to get trampled, hurt by those doggie toe nails that always need to be trimmed!
    At the very least one should consider that you would not let a dog run around in park full of children – so DO NOT let a child run around in a park full of dogs.


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