Over 70 per cent of dog owners will be minding young relatives or the children of friends more than usual over the summer school holidays, most of whom are under 10 years old, and Blue Cross is issuing advice to keep dogs happy and children safe.
Younger children are nearly twice as likely to need hospital treatment for a dog strike or bite than those aged over 10*.
Claire Stallard, Blue Cross Animal Behaviourist said: “Visiting relatives and friends who have a dog can be great fun for kids and they often form strong bonds, becoming the best of pals. However it is vital that there are actions in place to make sure play stays safe. Dogs need to have space to themselves, especially during mealtimes, when they are resting or when children are running around together having fun.
"Dogs are as individual as the children in the family and can get over-excited and have good and bad days too, that is why we want to share how to look after pets and children safely this summer.”
Not all owners can spot the subtle behaviours dogs show them that show that their pet might be stressed or uncomfortable in certain situation. Dogs can sometimes feel trapped and many do not enjoy being hugged, especially by strangers. Some dogs may also be confused by young children who can be awkward on their feet, fall on them and make erratic movements. This can be even more confusing to dogs who only interact with children when they visit to be looked after by a relative or family friend.
Over half the dog owners questioned said they did not know where to get help if they had concerns about the dog around children, so we have published special online advice for childminders, including signs to look out for that a dog is feeling stressed and when owners need to let the dog have their own space.*Hospital Episode Statistics (HES), Health and Social Care Information Centre. 2015/16 figures show 648 10 to 19-year-olds needed hospital treatment for a dog bite or strike compared to 1,134 children aged 0 to nine years old were admitted to hospital.