Kids & Dogs: Part 1

Teaching your child how to act around the family dog

It’s easy to get excited around dogs, even as an adult. With their goofy smiles and soft fur, it’s hard to resist going in for a big hug! But it’s important to know how to act around dogs (even if your family doesn’t have a pup) and to help kids learn that when they’re young…because, let’s face it: Dog bites happen.

But here’s the good news. There’s lots of things you can do to prevent them. Many are the result of a dog’s fearfulness and inability to escape a particularly stressful situation.
Here are some tips to ensure happy, safe children and pets.

Know the Signs of A Stressed Pooch!

  • Cowering posture, with a bowed head, furrowed brow, backward-facing ears, and tail tucked between the legs
  • Whites of the eyes showing (known as whale eye)
  • Excessive panting or yawning
  • Lip-licking
  • Nervous glances in all directions
  • Looking or moving away from the source of stress
  • Restless pacing without direction
  • Motionless stance (known as body-freezing)


This is especially key around youngsters who haven’t yet learned signs of a dog who’s fearful or anxious. Remember, even the most happy-go-lucky pup can be provoked. When observing signs of fear, anxiety, or discomfort, stop interactions to give the animal some space.

Teach Your Child Dog Manners (and Repeat)!

Here’s the easiest part: Teach your child to be kind, respectful and polite to canine companions. Older kids should be taught how to recognize when a dog is tense based on body language so they can give him or her some space. Practice these guidelines with youngsters:

  • Stay calm around a dog. Don’t jump, run, yell, or roughhouse. Instead, play a game of fetch or hide and seek. 
  • Most dogs don’t like to be hugged or kissed. Gently pet them on the back or side, or under the chin instead. And remember, don’t pull their fur, ears, or tail.
  • Don’t startle or surprise any dog. Let the dog know when you’re approaching.
  • Don’t bother a dog who’s eating or sleeping. Provide your dog with a safe kid-free zone (e.g., crate, kennel, gated room) to retreat to without being disturbed. A child should know and respect that when the dog is in his space, he shouldn’t be bothered.

Visit the Behavior and Training Tips section for more guidance.

Kids & Dogs: Part 1

Connecticut Humane Society

701 Russell Road, Newington, CT 06111
800-452-0114 | FAX 860-665-1478 
The Connecticut Humane Society is a 501(c)(3)
non-profit organization. EIN: 06-0667605
Copyright 2013 Connecticut Humane Society

Copyright 2013 Connecticut Humane Society