3 Tips for Teaching Children How to Interact with Dogs

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Help Them To Be Patient

Dogs are territorial by nature. They guard their personal space, and they use it to control the pace of interactions with humans. Children, especially those under the age of six, have a minimal sense of physical boundaries. They don’t think twice about rushing toward a dog, putting their hands in its face or grabbing at it, and that’s a recipe for a nasty bite. Children may also be inclined to hug a dog, but dogs actually don’t like hugs either. It’s important to teach your child that they need to be okay with the possibility that a dog may not like their actions.

As an adult, it’s up to you to help children be patient around dogs. When approaching a new dog for the first time, stay with children and control the speed of their approach. Explain to them that quick movements can frighten dogs and that the safest way to approach them is to move slowly and give them the time they need to feel comfortable.

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Help Them To Be Gentle

Climbing on the dog or pulling on its hair, tail or ears are all behaviors that can seem fun to children, but they hurt the dog and may cause it to react defensively by biting or nipping. This can startle or even injure your child. You can help older children relate to that by pointing out how they might feel if one of their friends were to play too roughly with them, but young children need more hands-on guidance. Demonstrate how to soothe a dog through gentle petting, and if necessary, hold their hand while they do it. Avoid the dog’s head. Safer zones are the chest, shoulders and upper back.

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Help Them To Be Understanding

Because dogs and children are of similar size, kids see them as just another playmate, but it’s essential for them to learn that dogs communicate in an entirely different way than they do. Scientists believe that on average canines are about a smart as a two-year-old child. This means that it’s our responsibility as humans to learn how to communicate with dogs on their level. 

Teaching young kids to be polite around dogs is a must for safety, but older children can benefit from learning more about canine behavior. You can help them be more understanding by teaching them about how dogs use their sense of smell to explore the world and body language to communicate. Show them how to interpret canine postures that suggest how a dog is feeling. When children know the reasoning behind rules like not yelling at dogs or taking away their food, they’re more likely to comply. Learning more about the fundamental differences between dogs and people will ensure that kids grow up to be respectful, responsible pet owners.

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