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Getting children and dogs to mix well

Updated on May 2, 2014
My terriers, Misty and Cloudy.
My terriers, Misty and Cloudy. | Source

Every Dog's Guide to Home Safety

Just recently, my terriers and I had a memorable encounter with a little girl waiting for the lift to take her up to her apartment.

She had such fear of my two placid pooches that she froze in place when we passed. She didn’t move until we returned from our evening stroll.

I guessed that she must have had negative encounters with dogs. The incident stressed the importance of getting pets and children to interact well.

"Queen" Cloudy of the West Highlands.
"Queen" Cloudy of the West Highlands. | Source

The challenge of bringing up a child and a pet

Raising a child or pet is a challenge. Nurturing either requires tremendous effort.

To have both children and dogs in the same household is a potential nightmare. To lessen your headaches, you have to prompt them to interact positively.

Encouraging children and dogs to play nicely is even more necessary when guests and their children come over to visit.

Dog Safety

What can go wrong when children and dogs interact?

Play has the potential to go awry when children and dogs get together. Children don’t realize it when their actions trigger canine aggression.

1. The child hurts or startles the dog

A child unwittingly hurts a dog when he pulls its tail, falls onto it or sticks a pencil in its ear. The pain sometimes causes it to be defensive and lash out with a bite.

2. The child gets too close to the dog's belongings.

A child usually picks up a dog’s bone or other toys out of curiosity. Dogs are possessive creatures and don’t enjoy it when their bones are taken.

It’s possible for them to become aggressive when a child takes their favorite toys in the middle of a good chew.

3. The child uses inappropriate actions or body language.

Dogs interpret certain actions or body language as aggression on our part. Snarling or growling at them makes them defensive and prompts them to do the same.

Canines feel the need to bite when children mimic their actions.

4. Fear triggers a predatory response.

If my dogs were fiercer, the little girl I had introduced earlier in the article might have been bitten. Terrified responses from children do set off predatory responses in our dogs. It’s not surprising for a dog to take pleasure in chasing a frightened child.

Play includes a fascination with fruits.
Play includes a fascination with fruits. | Source

How to teach your dog to interact positively with children

1. Supervise children and pets whenever possible.

It’s not advisable for pets and children to be unsupervised. If you can’t be around when your children are playing with your dog, it’s best to confine the dog to a safe area away from them.

2. Create space for your dog.

Crates are frowned upon as a means of permanent confinement, but are a safe place for your dog to be at times. Dogs sleep in it without being bothered.

Never use the crate as punishment. It should be used as a safety resort when needed.

3. Establish house rules

House rules should be established. Children shouldn’t play roughly with dogs. Actions and mannerisms that prompt aggression should be disallowed.

Children and dogs should understand their respective boundaries. A dog shouldn’t be allowed to play with a child’s toys, A child shouldn't be allowed to snatch any toy belonging to a dog either.

If your child is young, make his room a dog free zone.

4. Train and socialize your dog.

Your dog has to learn how to behave around people, especially children who are still learning the ways of the world.

Dogs are sociable creatures, but don’t express themselves the way we do. A jump indicates a friendly intention to play, but humans, especially a child, often see it as aggression.

To prevent misunderstandings and accidents from occurring, socialize your dog. Teach it not to jump to greet strangers and children.

5. Choose the right breed.

Some dogs, including the Rottweiler, Pit bull Terrier or Mastiff, should not be allowed around children unless socialized or already a member of the family for some time.

A frisky dog overwhelms a gentler, more sedentary child. In this case, choose a quiet, more reticent dog A Shih Tzu or Labrador Retriever fits the bill.

6. Prepare dogs and children to meet each other.

Abrupt sounds alarm a dog. To get it used to the cries of a baby, think about getting the help of a trainer.

Help it get used to the baby’s sounds and scents. Allow the dog to smell the baby’s blanket or toys to acclimatize it. The same should be done to get the dog used to other children.

Bowing is a sign of play.
Bowing is a sign of play. | Source

How to teach your child to interact positively with dogs

It’s important to teach a child to interact appropriately with dogs. Honestly, children get rough at times. Think about the mangled stuff toys that are lying around at home.

1. Teach your child to approach dogs safely.

Initial lack of familiarity is not surprising. Teach your child to approach the dog with his palm face down.

He should always use a soft voice when speaking to a dog. Children should always ask for permission before petting another person’s pet.

2. Children should use just the right touch with dogs

Contrary to what we believe, dogs find pats on the head a little invasive in the way we do.

Explain to children that dogs prefer being stroked on the chin and behind the ears. Never hug or squeeze dogs.

3. Don’t allow your child to carry puppies.

Try not to allow a young child to carry puppies around. Puppies tend to squirm and children lose their grip on them. Letting a young child hold a puppy without supervision is setting the stage for an accident to happen.

Teach older children to support the dog’s forelegs and hind legs when carrying it. The child’s right hand should be under the chest. The left should circle under the hind legs of the dog.

4. Playing safely

Children must be told from the start that yelling, running and abrupt actions startle dogs. If this should happen, get the child to stand quietly until the dog stops barking or walks away.

5. No Teasing

Dogs behind a fence feel trapped as it is. Taunting and teasing restricted dogs angers them.

There is danger afoot when the frustrated dog gets loose.

My terrier, Cloudy, is often taunted by children who make silly barking noises. I have to grip Cloudy’s jaw gently to remind her not to bark. The children have to be instructed not to make those noises as it irritates both dogs and people.


Dogs and children playing well together is heartwarming. Encouraging their harmony encourages joy.

Orignal work by Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin


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    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks Glim.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      6 years ago

      This is extremely useful advice Michelle. Every dog is different and reacts differently to every person. I'm always surprised when parents let their kids go right up to a strange dog.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Devika!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Nell!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Thelma!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      It is extremely important that the chosen dog gets on with family or kids and you stated is so well here, thank you.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Great advice Michelle! yes I have seen children hugging dogs and then running around them and startling the dogs, if they are just careful the dog will start to trust them and then a great rapport will start, this is a must for anyone with a child who is planning on getting a dog, voted up and shared!

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      6 years ago from Germany and Philippines

      What a wonderful advice to the parents and those dog owners like me. Well done! Thanks for sharing Michelle. Have a great day!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Eddy!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Cybershelly!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      I hope it helps!! Try it out and let me know, Nikkah. Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      It helps. You assert yourself and make the dog submissive too. You can stand over it as well.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      I suppose she may have been concerned that interfering would cause someone, or even the dog, to be hurt. The best way around it would have been to carry the girl away. Thanks for sharing, Jackie!

    • travmaj profile image


      6 years ago from australia

      Great hub Michelle and most interesting and great advice for parents and dog owners. . You covered the points so well. As you've probably gathered I'm a 'dog person' , my children grew up with dogs and have wonderful memories of them. Just so sad when they leave us.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      Another wonderful hub Michelle which I know will help so many to be dog owners with little ones. Voted up and sharing.

      enjoy your weekend.


    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 

      6 years ago

      Good advice and I believe that animals give special pleasure and love from which children gain so much. Up, interesting and useful

    • Nikkah Lubanga profile image

      Nikkah Lubanga 

      6 years ago from Cebu City Philippines

      This is both an interesting and useful hub. Even though I am no longer a child, this is helpful for me because I usually don't get in good terms with our dog.

    • famhauz profile image

      Peter Mwai 

      6 years ago from Kenya

      Interesting hub Michelle! It's nothing I could conjure my mind to even start thinking about. I once heard that looking straight into a dog's eyes can make them docile. Is it true or just a myth?

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      6 years ago from the beautiful south

      Every child deserves a dog; a gentle one and the child should be taught to be kind. I was so worried my daughter got a dog for her little girl (my granddaughter at about 5) and was so sure it would hurt her just to witness the little girl kicking that small dog and being so mean to it! The dog didn't offer to fight back or snap and in a way that is as bad as the bad dogs! My daughter loved animals and was kind to them; I just can't understand why she allowed this. I also knew of a young baby and pit bull growing to about age five together and that dog just turned on that little girl and tore her face off practically. I don't think dogs of question like the pit bull should be allowed in a home with children.

      You make some very good points.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Bill!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Excellent information, Michelle. If I had it to do again, I would get a puppy at the same time as the baby arrived, and let them grow up together as best friends.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      THere's always a way for children and dogs to interact safely.


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