The death of four-year-old Lexi Branson has brought the issue of the behaviour of family dogs in society to the fore again.
Staff at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home believe dogs that are understood, well-trained and cared for are less likely to cause problems.
They have issued the following guidelines for ensuring safety around dogs:
- Always make sure there is an adult around when children are playing with a dog
- Keep games nice and calm, avoiding rough games as they give the dog the wrong message
- Stick to games like fetch and retrieve
- Stop any games immediately if the dog becomes over-excited or starts to bite
Love and attention
- Allow the dog to move away if he wants to otherwise he may feel trapped
- Be gentle and avoid making any sudden movements
- Do not kiss or hug a dog as this could make him feel trapped
- Regularly stroke the dog
- Stay calm and quiet and avoid staring at a dog as this may scare him
Do not disturb
A dog should be left alone when the dog is:
- Protecting its territory
- Looking after her puppies
- Playing with another dog or toy
Battersea also stresses the importance of recognising a dog's body language.
Dogs 'speaking' using noises such as a bark or a growl, facial expressions or body language.
How to recognise an angry dog
Just like people, dogs can become angry in many situations.
- The dog is maintaining eye contact through narrow eyes
- The mouth has lips apart, drawn back from the teeth and is snarling and even growling
- The body and tail is tense and stiff
- The dog's hackles (hairs on the back of the neck) are standing up
- Its ears are pointing up and forwards
If a dog shows any of the signs above it is best to walk away calmly and avoid approaching it.
It is not advised to run, shout or scream.
How to recognise a scared dog
Dogs can find new situations, people or places scary.
They may be scared of something specific like fireworks, or have had a bad experience in the past.
- Their ears are low and flat on his head
- The eyes of the dog are big and round
- They may be panting, growling or snarling in fear
- The tail is tucked tightly between their legs.
- The body is trembling, shivering and drawn into a cowering position with an arched back
- It is visibly backing away from the owner
If a dog is demonstrating these signs, it is advised to walk away very slowly.
An owner should try not to stare at the dog and to make sure it is not forced into a corner or trapped in any way.
For more information on dealing with dogs, visit the website of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.