Teaching Kids to Pet Dogs

Teaching Kids to Pet Dogs

By Kathy Santo


Toddlers often become magnetized to dogs and see them as friendly creatures to run up to and hug. That may scare small and large dogs alike—which is when things can go terribly wrong. Here are some safety tips for those of you with children 2 years of age and older:

Do as I do. Telling your kids to keep their face away from the dog when they see you kissing the dog on the mouth and holding it against your face is a bit contradictory. Kids mirror what the adults in their lives do, so if you must “kitchey-koo” your dog, do it when the kids are not present.

How would you like it if … ? Teach your kids to understand how to interact with their dog in a way that they can relate to: If you don’t like it, a dog probably doesn’t either! That means don’t take their toys; don’t stick your hand in their food; keep your face away from theirs; don’t squeeze them, lie on them, or try to ride them; don’t wake them up while they’re sleeping; and don’t scream and yell around them. Lest you think this is a one-time talk, think again! As your kids mature, you must reiterate the rules, interpret your dog’s body language for them, and give feedback (positive and negative) on their interactions with the dog.

Learn to recognize the signs. If you can’t recognize when your dog is stressed, then you can’t teach your children to recognize it either. Find a reputable trainer in your area who teaches canine body-language interpretation so you know what your dog is trying to tell you. Changes in breathing, a closed mouth, lip licking, turning his head away from you, growling, raised lips, his tail down, and raised hackles are your dog’s signals. Supervising your dog and child’s interactions means not only watching them, but also understanding what you’re looking at and intervening if necessary.

Originally published in AKC FAMILY DOG. Photo credit: istockphoto.com ©Rosemarie Gearhart