Dogs And Children


How a child behaves with a dog and how the dog responds depends largely on the conditioning and temperament of the dog and the child.


A dog can often be unpredictable and a child equally erratic in its behaviour towards pets.

We tend to forget that dogs do not communicate in the same way as humans. For example, humans make eye contact when communicating and make contact through an open hand shake. Both of these behaviours may be seen as a threat to dogs.

Dogs, children and adults need to be trained in how to approach and communicate effectively.

Jendi and Ziggy with child.

Basic precautions for the safety of dog and child:

  • Do Not Leave An Infant Alone With A Dog

    While dogs have been known to be protective towards babies, it is not advisable to take a chance. Never leave an infant alone with a dog.

  • Teach Your Child To Respect Your Dog's Space

    Teach your child never to disturb a dog who has taken shelter in his kennel, corner or favourite hideout. Respect his privacy.

  • Don't Chain Your Dog Outside And Leave Him Unattended

    A dog tied for long periods tends to get irritable and foul tempered. Add to that the high pitched screams of excited children playing, and you have a potentially dangerous situation. The dog interprets children's excited screams as a distress signal of a prey animal, and reacts by attacking the 'prey'.

  • Teach Your Child How To Deal With Dogs

    Children must be taught not to approach a dog that has not been befriended. They must learn not to antagonise a dog by making loud noises or threatening gestures. If the child is afraid of dogs teach her not to suddenly flee at the sight of a dog, as even this can trigger the chase instinct of the dog. Once the chase instinct comes into play, a dog cannot help but attack what he sees as 'prey'.

  • The Child Must Never Hold A Dog's Gaze

    Dogs rarely see children as senior members of the 'pack'. When a child stares steadily into a dog's eyes, the dog sees it as a threatening gesture. Make sure your child knows this.

  • Socialise Your Dog

    It is your responsibility to socialise your puppy to kids. You can begin socialising your dog by first taking him for walks in a park where children come to play.

  • Teach the puppy that children can play with it (gently) and stress the need to be gentle to the child.

  • No Tug-of-war

    Do not encourage your dog to play tug-of-war with your child over a piece of toy, teddy, cushion or leash. This may make the dog aggressive, and make it compete with the child over little items.

  • Teach Children not to Approach a Sleeping Dog

    When awoken from a deep sleep, humans have been known to behave defensively, that is to strike out. Dogs when woken in fright may behave in much the same way. Dogs should not be disturbed when sleeping. If you need to wake the dog up, call them from a distance to allow them time to become oriented.

  • Teach Children not to Approach a Dog that is Eating

    Dogs may become protective of their food or bones. They can be conditioned to accept interference with their food from the time they enter the house as a puppy. This requires the owner to teach the dog not to react if its food is removed while eating. Start by putting your hand on the food bowl. If the puppy is happy and does not show signs of aggression, take the food away. Reward the puppy with a pat. After the puppy has sat and been given a reward, the food is returned and the puppy resumes eating.

  • Train children to look at the feet of a strange dog

    When approached by a strange dog, children should be taught to stand like a statue with their arms by their sides. It is important to instill in children the importance of not makinq eye contact with the dog.

  • Important dog behaviour to recognise

    Dogs, as with any other animals, have a special way of communicating with each other and humans. Most people recognise the wagging tail as a sign of a happy dog, but fewer people really know or understand other signs of dog body language. A dog's body language gives us clues about how a dog may be feeling.

    • A dog should be left alone if it:

    • lifts its lips

    • growls

    • backs off

    • raises the hair on its back.

Some Other Useful Articles

Teaching children how to interact with dogs

Introducing a new dog into a household with a child

Health issues affecting dogs and children

Minimising the risk of dog bites


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