Zen and the Art of Dog

Teaching Kids How to Interact with Dogs

There are two types of kids and dogs stories prevalent on the internet. The heartwarming stories of the sweet relationships between kids and their dogs.  Or the heartbreaking stories of lives forever changed by a negative interaction with a dog that led to injury, trauma, and even death. 

Living in a densely populated city, we’ve seen and experienced the gamut of kids and dogs interactions. You wouldn’t let your child go up to a wolf in the forest and you shouldn’t let your child go up to a strange dog in the park. Even though dogs are domesticated animals, you should never assume any dog is safe. We still need to teach kids the proper way to interact with dogs.

 The most important rule is that kids and dogs should never be left unsupervised.

Meet and Greet

You can’t judge a book by its cover and you can’t judge a dog by its appearance. Size, age, breed, etc cannot be used to predict how a dog will react when approached. Dogs like people have different experiences and personalities that drive their behavior. Even dogs raised in loving homes from puppyhood can have behavioral issues.  

Your child should never approach an off leash dog. Your child should never run up to a dog at someone’s home. If the dog’s owner says the dog is kid friendly, your child should still approach calmly. If your child cannot contain his or her excitement, it might be better to let them cool off before meeting/greeting the dog. 

Be Gentle

  • Don’t get in the dog’s face and crowd his or her space.
  • Don’t yell.
  • Don’t disturb the dog if he or she is sleeping.
  • Don’t pick up the dog.
  • Don’t pull on the dog’s tails, ears, nipples, fur, genitals, etc.
  • Don’t climb on or step on the dog. 
  • Don’t grab toys away from the dog.
  • Don’t mess with the dog while he or she is eating.

Listen, Watch, and Learn

It is extremely rare that a dog will attack without warning and without previous behavioral issues exhibited. Parents/owners/adults/kids should watch for signs of stress in the dog:

  • Snipping or baring teeth
  • Excessive panting and drooling
  • Vocalization including whining and barking
  • Dilated pupils or whites of eyes showing
  • General discomfort in body posture

What is OK?

Once your kids understand the basic foundation on how they should interact with dogs, there are a world of possibilities. Kids can pet dogs, play appropriate games like fetch, teach dogs tricks like sit and down, walk dogs on a leash, and even care for dogs by feeding and grooming them. The relationship between a child and a dog is a two way street and both need training on how to behave to have a positive outcome.  

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