Written by Vet Tech

How Kids Should (And Should Not) Interact With Dogs Explained Step By Step

  • Written by:Amber LaRock, Vet Tech
Instead of blaming the dog for snapping and showing sudden aggression around children, ask yourself first if you did your best to educate your children on how to behave around dogs. If you know that an additional tip wouldn't hurt in this area explore this guide on how your kids should, and shouldn't interact with dogs.

The relationship between your children and their dog can be one unlike any other. Your pup has the potential to be their very best furry friend, and you want them to experience this special bond.

Even the friendliest dog can reach their limit, so how do you ensure that your child is safe around your family pup? In this article we’ll discuss the ways in which you can promote a healthy bond between your child and your dog, and ways they can avoid harm.

The Introduction

When you bring a new dog into your home, it’s understandable for your child to be overcome with excitement. While they may want to run to their new friend and smother them with love, it’s important to take this introduction period slowly. Adjusting to a new home can be scary for a dog, and you don’t want them to take out this fear on your child.

When you first bring your dog home, you will want to give them adequate time to explore their new space without the distraction of you or your child. These new sights and smells can be a lot to take in. Once they are more familiar with their surroundings, it will be easier for them to be open to new humans.

Once your dog has explored their new environment, it’s important to let the dog decide when they would like to interact with the children in your home. By letting them come to you on their own terms, you are creating a respectful relationship. If a child runs toward a dog who is not yet ready to interact, this can cause the pup to become fearful and can lead to your child getting scratched or bitten from fear.

Instead, ask your child to sit on the ground in the middle of the room and allow your new dog to come to them. Your child can even put their hand out, giving your dog the option to come up and take a sniff. When your new pup gets to meet your children on their own terms, they are less likely to be fearful.

This is also an important lesson for your child to learn about any kind of interaction with animals, especially those that they do not know. No matter how sweet a dog is, quickly approaching an unknown dog can be dangerous.

Consider Their Age

A child’s age will have a lot to do with the type of relationship they can have with your family dog. If a child is too young to understand the proper ways to interact, then you will have to monitor their contact closely.

  • Age 0-5: At this age, children are either unable to comprehend specific instructions, or they are too young to understand the seriousness behind gentle interaction with a dog. During this age period, you should never allow your child to be alone with your dog. Even if you trust your furry family member, you never know what can happen.
  • Age 6-12: At this point your child can begin to understand basic pet interaction. This is the time to implement kind and safe interaction with your new pup and work on introducing safe activities in which your child and dog can bond. (playing fetch, performing tricks, etc)
  • 13 and older: This is a great time to start giving your child pet-related “chores” such as walking them on a leash, brushing their fur, and offering them their meals. These activities can strengthen the bond between them, and help to create a sense of responsibility for their beloved companion.

Supervision

Supervision is an essential part of dog and child interaction, as many disasters can be avoided by simply being in the room.

Consider your child’s age, and if they are too young to know the proper way to interact, then you should always be in close range in case of an accident.

If you are still getting to know your dog, it’s best to never leave them alone with your child. Dogs are incredible companions, but they can still be unpredictable when we haven’t yet learned their triggers and habits. Just as you would love to know how much your child is secured online, you should always provide a safe environment around dogs.

Quick action has helped to avoid any potential tragedies between dogs and children. Direct supervision around animals can truly save lives.

Ways To Promote A Healthy Dog And Child Bond

Once you have gotten to know your new canine friend, you may begin to wonder about ways that you can help to promote an everlasting bond between your child and their new pup. Some safe and fun ways to do this include:

  • Petting: It’s important to teach your child the proper way to pet a dog. Once your child has learned to pet in a way that’s not rough or uncomfortable, they can give your pup all the cuddles and belly rubs that they desire.
  • Training: Ideally, your dog should respond to every human in their home, no matter how small. By keeping your child involved in the basic obedience training, they can take pride in the fact that their pup will listen to their commands. Once your dog learns basic obedience training, show your child the commands. This way, they can have your pup sitting, shaking, and performing any other special tricks for them as well.
  • Grooming: Daily brushing can be an incredible time for your dog and child to bond. Depending on how furry your dog is, they may need daily grooming. What better way to teach your children the importance of pet care, all while letting them participate in an activity that they can both enjoy.
  • Play: Since dogs need daily exercise, letting your children be their source of play can help you and your dog. There are a number of ways your child can help to get your dog moving, and each way is just another moment in which they can enjoy each other’s presence.
  • Chores: While every family is different, some people choose to include their children in household chores. Since some of these chores include our furry friends, what better way to get them involved than teaching them what goes into taking care of a dog. You can teach them how to offer daily meals, take them on walks, clean up after them, and any other pet chore that you may need help with.

Things To Avoid In A Dog And Child Bond

Perhaps the most important part of establishing a relationship with any dog and your child is showing them what not to do. Respect is huge in our human interactions, so it should be just as important for animals as well. Some important things to teach your child about what not to do include:

  • Make sure to teach your child to never approach a dog without permission. During your child’s life, they are going to see many dogs in public. It’s important to make sure that your child knows to always ask the owner for permission to approach their dog, as their dog may not be safe to touch.
  • Teaching your children about personal space is important in general and for our canine friends. While we often see photos of children lying on top of dogs, or holding their faces tightly for kisses, this is not ideal. While it may be okay 99% of the time, there is always a chance for your pet to get irritated and snap. We respect the personal space of our human friends, so our animal’s friends should get the same respect.
  • Make sure to show your child the proper way to hug and pet your dog, without squeezing and hurting them. A common injury in smaller dogs is rough play with young children. This is unfair to the dog, and can also result in your pup biting or injuring your child out of pain.
  • Another extremely important lesson for a child is to never approach a dog while they are eating. Even the kindest of dogs can show food aggression, and you never want your child to be on the receiving end of that aggression. Mealtime is a personal time for your dog, and they can become extremely protective over their bowl in an instant. It’s always best to leave your dog alone when they are eating, chewing a bone, or snacking on treats.
  • Teasing is annoying to anyone, and your dog is no exception. Make sure your children know to never poke, blow at, pull at, or participate in any other forms of teasing your dog. It’s not nice, and it can result in your dog getting frustrated and snap.
    Startling a sleeping dog can be risky, as they may respond quickly without even knowing what they are doing. Make sure your children know to never startle or disturb a sleeping dog, as this can lead to injury if the dog is angered.

Important Tips To Remember

We love our dogs dearly, but we have to remember that there is always a potential for danger when we don’t respect their boundaries. Some important tips for your child to remember include:

  • Always ask permission before you pet a dog.
  • Never approach an unknown dog without an owner present.
  • Allow a dog to come to you when you are getting to know each other.
  • Make sure to be gentle with petting, as pulling and tugging on hair can be painful.
  • Never approach a dog when they are eating.
  • Do not interrupt a dog when they are resting or sleeping.
  • Respect your dog’s personal space as you would like to be respected.
  • Teasing a dog is never okay.

While this may seem like a lot, almost all of these rules are about general respect and transfer over to basic human interaction as well. Our pups deserve respect, and it’s essential for children to learn that from the start.

Summary

Children are one of the most common victims of dog bites because they are the ones who don’t always know the proper ways to interact with their furry companions. By teaching our children the basic safety tips that come with loving a dog, we can help to prevent any accidents in the future!