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When it comes to kids and dogs, make sure you play it safe!

The first instinct of most dogs is to chase anything that runs by. So if your toddler sees a strange dog and starts running, chances are that dog is going to run after your child. Dogs love to chase things and many times, a fun chase is simply that--fun. However, there are times when a situation can turn dangerous. Sometimes, once a chase begins, a dog's instinct may move him into "attack" mode before anyone can stop him. The object to be hunted or chased, if caught, will needed to be acted upon "appropriately," in the dog's mind, and in the wild, this would lead to an attack.

Never leave a child alone with a dog

Most Pet Parents think, "my dog would never hurt anybody." Most of the time this is true. Unfortunately, though, there are those rare instances where your loving canine feels he is protecting his territory, his home or you, and will bite someone he feels is a threat. No one ever knows for sure what an animal is thinking. Animal behaviorists have tried to theorize why animals act one way or another way, but each dog is different and has had unique life experiences that have helped form his overall personality.

Protecting the child

Just as no one ever really knows what a dog is thinking, the same is true of a young child. You really don't know what as going through a kid's mind when she sees a dog. It could be that the child thinks of the pooch as her own personal fluffy, stuffed animal, or she may see him as huge scary fangs and a killer canine. Either way, the child will react . . . and that reaction may very likely set the dog in motion.

No matter how much you trust a dog, you should NEVER leave a child alone with any dog, no matter how small the dog seems. In fact, some smaller dogs are known to bite children more often than bigger dogs. Either way, size doesn't matter when those sharp teeth are in a biting clench on an innocent child's arm. Florida resident, Cindy Tunstall has two dogs, one little Chinese pug, Sophie, about 14 pounds and the other an English Bulldog named Tug, weighing in at about 80 pounds. "I tell the kids not to run when the dogs are around," Tunstall explains, "because dogs love to chase people and little people love to run."

Protecting the dog

Children need to be taught how to act around animals, especially dogs. No matter how badly they want to squeeze and kiss the big puppy, you need to tell them that this isn't safe for them or the dog. Kids oftentimes want to play too rough, as well, and your dog has been trained not to react when children are playing with him, your precious pooch could end up being injured. A child could injure a dog accidentally, not realizing how rough they are playing until someone ends up getting hurt.

The same rule should apply for your dog's safety as for the child's safety--don't leave a child and a dog alone together for any amount of time. It only takes a second for an incident to occur while you are doing something else. You must teach children never to tease the dog, even if he seems to enjoy the game at first. And never, ever let a child near a dog who is eating. Dogs do not take kindly to a "supposed" threat to their food supply.

Early socialization for both

The best way for children and dogs to accept the presence of each other is to start both species off early in life with dog/child interaction. Puppies who get used to the boisterousness of kids will adjust and learn to accept the habits of children. At the same time, small children who are taught to respect dogs early in their lives will more easily adapt to being around them when they're older.

Also, certain breeds of dog are predisposed to be "better" with children, while other breeds are known as frequent child biters. You should thoroughly check into all breeds of dog, as well as the history of the individual pooch you are thinking of adopting, before making the final decision to bring a dog into a household where small children live. Dogs and kids can coexist together peacefully and happily. Just make sure you are always present to supervise the actions and reactions of all your Pet Family members.