The Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) announces the publication of new Parent Tips aimed at helping parents and carers reduce the risk of dogs harming babies and children.

Having a dog in the family has many benefits – from making children very happy and confident, through to teaching them about responsibility and learning how to respect living things. We often see dogs as being “part of the family”, but we do need to remember that dogs are a different species.  This guide provides 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. This advice should be shared with friends, neighbours, carers and relatives.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, executive director, iHV, said:

“Far too often we hear tragic news stories of a baby or young child being attacked by the family pet.  As a parent, it’s important you take steps to ensure your child and your dog can live happily together – making sure your young child knows how to behave around your dog will help to keep them safe. 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.”

From the dog’s point of view, children behave very differently to adults – they are unpredictable and make a lot of noise. In addition, children tend to interact with dogs in the same way as they do with their friends – they hug them, cuddle them and tell them off. Children also use very close facial contact which is very different to dog social behaviour and many dogs can find it threatening.  It is for these reasons that children are more likely to be bitten than any other population group. Research also shows that people are far more likely to be bitten by a dog owned by their own family than an unfamiliar dog. This means that children are in the highest risk group for being bitten by their own family dog.

Dr Adams continued:

“Dogs are an intrinsic part of many families’ lives so it’s important that parents take appropriate steps to ensure that their children and dogs can live together safely and happily.  Please share our tips with friends and family.”

Parent Tips - Keeping babies and children safe around dogs in the home

Parent Tips – Keeping babies and children safe around dogs in the home

We are delighted to publish these Good Practice Points support health visitors working with families where a baby or young child may be at risk of harm from a dog.

Approximately 40% of households in the UK have pets (Pet Food Manufacturers Association, 2016). Working animals and livestock animals may also play an important role in many families. The most popular household animals are dogs and cats but people also keep more exotic creatures such as snakes and tree frogs.

Interaction with animals can have developmental and therapeutic benefits for children. However, interaction can also result in harm. For example, cat faeces can contain a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis infection, which can cause miscarriage or stillbirth in some pregnant women. A specific risk of harm to babies and children is from dog bites.


Please note that this GPP is available to iHV members only.

If you’re not a member, please join us to get access to all of our resources.

The iHV is a self-funding charity – we can only be successful in our mission to strengthen health visiting practice if the health visiting profession and its supporters join us on our journey. We rely on our membership to develop new resources for our members.

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