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Children and Dogs – Some Guidelines

Children and dogs – How do you manage them together?children

Children love dogs!  It’s so lovely seeing a child enjoying the interaction with dogs and puppies, running around together, having a lovely cuddle and generally being really happy around their furry friends.

Dogs also love children: they love running around, playing fetch, being cuddled and having positive interactions.

However, it is not always simple and we need to be mindful of our dogs’ behaviour when they are with children.  I think it is important to teach children to have respect for dogs and treat them as they would like to be treated themselves.  A simple way to do this is to say:

Don’t grab, don’t chase, don’t get in their face.

After all, you wouldn’t like it if someone did it to you, would you? (If you want to explain to children how it feels when you get in a dog’s face, try towering over them and getting much too close, then shouting ‘hello’ – I bet they cry!)

Supervise your children

Here is a simple list to help you improve your supervision skills:

  • Watch for loose canine body language. Good dog body language is loose, relaxed, and wiggly.  Look for curves in your dog’s body when he is around a child.  Stiffening and freezing in a dog are not good. If you see your dog tighten his body, or if he moves from panting to holding his breath (he stops panting), you should intervene.  These are early signs that your dog is not comfortable.children
  • Watch for inappropriate human behaviour. Intervene if your child climbs on or attempts to ride your dog. Intervene if your child pulls the ears, yanks the tail, lifts the jowls or otherwise pokes and prods the dog. Don’t marvel that your dog has the patience of Job if he is willing to tolerate these antics. And please don’t video it for YouTube! Be thankful your dog has good bite inhibition and intervene before it’s too late.

Calming signals

  • Watch for these three really easy to see calming signals in your dog.  All of them indicate you should intervene and separate the child and dog:
  • Yawning outside the context of waking up
  • Half-moon eye – this means you can see the whites on the outer edges of your dog’s eyes.
  • Lip licking outside the context of eating food
  • Watch for avoidance behaviors. If your dog moves away from a child, intervene to prevent the child from following the dog.  A dog that chooses to move away is making a great choice.  He’s saying, “I don’t really want to be bothered, so I’ll go away.”  However, when you fail to support his great choice and allow your child to continue to follow him, it’s likely the dog’s next choice will be, “Since I can’t get away, I’ll growl or snap at this kid to get the child to move away.”  Please don’t cause your dog to make that choice.
  • Listen for growling. I can’t believe how many times I’ve heard parents say, “Oh, he growled all the time but we never thought he would bite.”  Dog behaviour, including aggression, is on a continuum. For dogs, growling is an early warning sign of aggression. Heed it.  If growling doesn’t work, the dog may escalate to snapping or biting. Growling is a clue that you should intervene between the dog and the child.

Top Tips

  • Don’t startle or surprise any dog – let the dog know when you are approaching.
  • Avoid hugging, kissing or any activity that puts your face in close proximity to the dog’s face.
  • Supervise all interactions between dogs and children and be sure that both adult and child know the body signs that indicate fear or anxiety.
  • When signs of fear or anxiety are observed, stop interactions between child and dog.
  • Provide dogs with a child-free zone in which to retreat—such as a baby-gated room or a kennel or crate.


  • Teach children to interact appropriately and not mistreat the family dog
  • Don’t approach strange dogs without the owners’ permission, or  approach loose dogs or ones tied out on long lines.
  • Never reach through a fence to pet a dog, nor reach into a car window to pet a dog.  You will definitely get bitten!
  • Do train your pet to obey basic commands such as sit, lie down and come when called by having clear expectations and rewarding the good behaviours with something the dog enjoys.
  • For dog households with children, teach the dog good things happen when children are close by.
  • Teach children to stay out of the dog’s personal space when the dog is eating, sleeping, injured or has puppies.

Additional Information

Here are some other articles and resources that may help you:

Taken from these sites:


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