Dogs are great companions for people of all ages and sizes. They’re goofy, lovable and give you sweet licks when you’re feeling down. Even more, there are breeds that are absolutely great with kids!
Still, when it comes to our youngs, they need a few guiding lessons to interact the proper way with dogs. And, as a parent, it’s your duty to teach your child to love animals and be comfortable around them. You want to teach your child how to be safe around dogs including those they know and don’t know. That way, they can grow up to really appreciate dogs to the fullest.
Given the fact that even parents need guiding from time to time, we put together a small guide to walk you through the process.
Make sure you supervise each interaction
If this is your family dog, then you won’t necessarily have to be there for every moment your child is around them. In fact, you’ll want to focus on teaching you child from a young age on how to interact with the family dog. However, if your child is around your friend’s dog or an unknown dog, then you’ll want to supervise the interaction.
Always ask for permission
Kids easily get excited when they see a dog, so they’ll run up to it and try to pet it. This is a big no-no. They may intimidate the dog or make it feel that it needs to protect itself. So, if your child wants to approach the dog, always ask the owner for permission. If the owner isn’t around, do not allow your child to pet it as the dog may feel the need to protect its territory.
Your child needs to approach the dog in a calm and slow manner. With a closed hand, they can extend it out to allow the dog to sniff them. If everything goes well, which it usually does, the dog can be patted under their chest or under the chin. You don’t want to let your child pat them on the head as the having a hand reaching over their head may make the dog nervous.
Play the tree game
You want to have your child comfortable around dogs. If they’re jumping around or if they’re yelling, this is going to make the dog scared which could lead to your child getting nipped – especially if the dog is not your family pet. So, teach your child how to act around dogs by playing the tree game. When an unknown dog comes up to your child, they should be standing still like a tree. Their arms should be by their side with their eyes down, without making any noise. You can pretend to be the dog while you crawl around them, sniffing them.
Let your child give them treats
What dog doesn’t love treats? Exactly! Let your dog build a positive association with your child by letting them feed the dog treats. If the dog is unknown or a new family pet, you want to show that your child isn’t a threat but rather a part of your pack.
Children love to give hugs which in any other situation, is great. However, the same doesn’t apply to dogs, especially unknown dogs. Though many people think dogs like to be hugged, they don’t. Hugging a dog can make them feel uncomfortable placing them in possibly a threatening state. This could lead to the dog becoming scared enough to nip or bite which is an issue since the head is very close to the dog’s mouth.
Show them what makes a dog angry
Dogs aren’t that different from humans. Do we like it when someone puts their hand on our dinner plate while we’re eating? No. Of course, dogs don’t like having their ears and tail pulled, being yelled at, disturbed while sleeping, and having their toys stolen from them. You’ll want to make the connection that your child and dog are similar in that sense so that they understand what they shouldn’t do.
Show them positive and negative body language
You want your child to know the difference between a happy dog and an annoyed dog. This will be useful for both unknown dogs and your family pet.
Positive body language
- Natural or wagging tail
- Relaxed facial expression
- Isn’t holding eye contact with you
- “Smiling” mouth
- Relaxed, floppy earsNegative body language
- Intense, direct eye contact
- Lips pulled back, exposing teeth
- Growling, aggressive barking
- Ears are pulled back
- Tail tucked in between their hind legs
- Hunched and/or tensed body
- Raised hair down their backs or shoulders
Include your child in activities with your dog
If you want to ensure that there’s a bond developed between your child and the family dog, then you’re going to have to make sure you include your child in day-to-day activities. Go on family walks, let your child give them water (you should be the one to feed your dog), and allow your child to be a part of grooming. Now, if your dog isn’t a happy pooch when bath time rolls around then it’s best your child isn’t there. However, if your dog likes to get shampooed and massaged then let your child join in but make sure you’re using the best dog shampoo that’s safe for dogs.
Is your child not following the rules?
If your child isn’t following anything you’re saying and disobeying these very important rules, then you need to remove your child from the dog. Give them a clear reason why they’re being removed from the dog so that they understand that these rules are in place for a reason. If they follow the rules, give them positive reinforcement to show that they’re doing a great job! Your child has to learn that dogs and all other animals are living creatures that are emotional just like you and me.
Now that you know what you need to do to have your child comfortable around dogs, the sooner you introduce this, the better! Depending on your child, they make need some time to warm up to dogs and get used to being around them. Also, your dog may need some time to get acquainted with their new tiny friend! Make sure your child knows the rules and that you supervise a positive friendship developing between your child and their dog.
Anna Smith resides in beautiful Santa Monica, CA, where she works as a Pet Nutrition Expert in a leading retail pet store. She is responsible for nutritional strategies for different breeds and development of new products on the market in compliance with Association of American Feed Control Officials. Anna’s passions are education about proven methods and best practices in the industry and her dog Max, who is always well-fed. She also helps curate contents for DogsAholic.com