It should not be assumed that children know how to interact with dogs. Teaching kids how to have a safe interaction with a familiar or unfamiliar dog can prevent the child from being hurt of bitten. Most children are drawn to dogs. The following suggestions should be taught to children so they are safe around dogs:
General Behavior Around Dogs
1. Teach children to avoid putting their face close to a dog’s face. This may invade the dog’s personal space. Plus, their face is then in the “bite zone.”
2. Children should avoid hugging dogs. This makes many dogs uncomfortable. If a dog feels threatened enough to bite, again the child’s head is close to the “bite zone.”
3. Children should never pull a dog’s ears, tail or grab a dog’s feet.
4. Children should avoid running away from dogs. Most dogs have some predatory instinct (some more than others). A child running away from a dog may evoke a predatory response.
5. Excessive noise can either excite, scare or annoy a dog depending on the breed. Teach children not to yell or scream around dogs.
1. A child should never approach a dog without permission. Have the child ask a parent, adult or the dog’s owner if he/she can approach the dog. Children should be taught to never approach a dog when an adult is not present.
2. When a child sees a dog, they should not run towards the dog. Once receiving permission to meet a dog, the child should approach it slowly and hold out the back of their hand slightly towards the dog, but not in the face. Then allow the dog to sniff the child. When meeting smaller dogs, a child should stoop down to the dog’s level.
3. A dog’s personal space should never be invaded. When meeting a dog, allow the dog to meet a child part way.
4. Child should be taught to never approach a dog when it is eating. In addition, children should not bother a dog that is chewing on a treat or toy.
5. Children can easily startle a dog that is sleeping so teach them to wait until the dog is awake before approaching it.
6. Children should always avoid approaching a dog that appears anxious, stressed or fearful. Adults can discern the dog’s behavior by reading the dog’s body language.
- Children should avoid bringing their hands over a dog’s face and head.
- Children should begin by softly petting the dog’s chin or chest. Very gentle scratching is also
- If the dog is accepting of them then the child could pet or scratch the dog’s back and neck in the same
direction of the dog’s fur.
- Children should instantly stop petting a dog if the dog backs away, snaps, or growls.
If a child sees a strange dog wandering without a leash and owner, the child should not approach the dog. If the dog comes towards the child teach them not to scream or run, which are both hard behaviors for children to learn since either response is a natural reaction. Instead, instruct the child to act like a tree, stand still, and remain calm. The child should not make eye contact with the dog. If the dog keeps approaching, tell the child to use the deepest voice possible to say “No! Go home!” loudly, but without yelling. If the dog stops approaching the child, the child may then slowly back away and find an adult to help them.
If any dog, even one the child knows, begins to growl, snarl or snap, teach the child to stop what they are doing and freeze. They should then slowly place their hands behind their back and avoid making eye contact with the dog. When it is then possible call an adult for help.
Many of these instructions are difficult, especially for very young children, but if a child is taught and regularly coached on how to become comfortable with these actions and behaviors, children may enjoy pleasant and safe encounters and relationships with dogs – both those dogs they know and others they will encounter when out and about.
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