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5 Rules to Give Young Children Before They Meet Dogs

January 16, 2014

Dogs and young children…sometimes they mesh well, and sometimes this situation can go terribly wrong. The introduction of children to dogs is a stressful and uncertain situation; you can never predict how the child might act or how a dog might react to their behavior.We’ve gathered the following tips to make sure the child knows how to act around new dogs. 

Start by giving your child a few basic ground rules before they come into contact with an unfamiliar dog. You can also share these ground rules with the parents of other young children that will be meeting your dog. Here are the 5 rules:

1. How Children should and should not interact with a dog: 

Make sure the child knows not to interact with the dog if it is asleep or doing a task; such as eating or playing with a toy.

2. How to Keep a dog from biting a child's face: 

Instruct the child to never put their face near the dog’s face or stick their hands or fingers in the dog’s face. Most (not all) dogs enjoy having their back and belly rubbed; when telling them to avoid the face, you can always encourage the child to pet those areas, with supervision. If your dog has any wounds or sore spots, be sure to tell the child not to touch those areas ahead of time.

3. Introducing dogs to children: 

The initial reaction of the child and the dog is important. Have the child walk slowly towards the dog then stop, allowing the dog to come up and sniff around. Instruct the child to hold out their fist (palm up) slowly so the dog can smell it. It is important to have a fist made in order to protect their fingers in case of a bite.

4. When a dog becomes too excited: 

If the dog becomes too excited around the child or the child wants the dog to leave him or her alone, the best strategy is usually for the dog to lose interest.  The way to do this is to have the child stand completely still (making sure to stand next to your child and supervise when this happens). Dogs are attracted to movement so when kids run and play dogs want to join in on the fun. If the child stops moving and stays still, the dog will usually sniff, lose interest, and leave the child alone.

5. Understand your dog's body language: 

Be aware of the signals the dog is giving about when he or she is feeling uncomfortable. It might not be the children who don’t want to play, but rather the dog.  These are some telltale signs - the dog may have one paw raised or act in a way that’s not normal, it may start to yawn or lick around its mouth, the dog could also act like itare trying to avoid the situation, such as hiding, turning its head away from people, keeping their tail between their legs, only wagging the end of their tail, or keeping their ears pinned back while panting.

In conclusion, set some ground rules to ensure that your child is safe around dogs.  Most importantly, until you know the dog’s behavior well, never leave them alone. Always supervise the two playing. This way you can observe if the child is playing too rough with the dog or your dog is showing warning signs and should be left alone. By giving the situation proper attention you can create a safe environment for everyone.

About the Author

Cameron St. George, Staff Writer

Hi I'm Cameron and I graduated from the University of La Verne with a degree in Legal Studies and a minor in Marketing. I enjoy socializing and all of the other things Southern California has to offer, but the real exciting part of my day is when I go home to see what my dog Sam has been up to (yes HER name is Sam and before her I had a St. Bernard named Elvis who was also a girl). Sam is a five year old German Shepherd and Husky mix who still thinks and acts like a puppy. I'm always curious to see if I lost a remote as a chew toy or how her attempted escape to take herself for a walk went. Sam is the inspiration for many of the ideas of the blogs I write.