No matter how well trained or sweet, every dog has their limit if they feel they are in danger or their patience is tested. Your dog might be surprised by a sudden tail or hair grab. It may be a territorial situation over food or a toy. Or, he might get fed up from continually having to sidestep a toddler.
It’s important to remember that animals operate on instincts, so children need to be taught how their pet acts when it’s frightened or tired, overstimulated or territorial — and how to respond properly. Children will learn more from watching you then from anything you tell them, so it’s important for you as an adult to always model proper dog ettiquete for kids.
Dog Training Pointer and Safety Tips:
Whether you have a dog or not, grabbing a stuffed animal to train and demonstrate proper dog ettiquette for kids can be useful so you aren’t using your own dog as an example of what not to do!
- Teach your child to ALWAYS ask an adult dog owner first if they can pet a dog. Then, approach the dog calmly and slowly extend a hand “for smelling.” This is especially important first time meetings.
- Pay attention to the dog’s body language at all times, even if it is your family pet. Dogs exhibit ease and comfort by wagging their tail with a relaxed body. They show fear, anxiety, or aggression by stiffness, large eyes (aka “whale eyes”), growling, laying back their ears, and putting their tail between their legs. Teach children to respect and understand the different signals and their meanings.
- Move slowly around dogs. Quick and sudden movements or loud noises and yelling might startle or frighten pets and get them more excited, which may lead to chasing, barking and jumping.
- Dogs should be allowed their own space when eating, in their crate and playing with toys. Teach your kids that dogs need alone time too!
- Let sleeping dogs lie. A dog who is startled awake may instinctually nip or cause other unintended harm.
- Pet dogs on their side or back instead of their head to avoid getting too close to their eyes or mouth. Children tend to “pat” animals rather than “pet” them. They need to be taught to be gentle and not to push, prod, poke, or tease pets in any way.
- The ASPCA recommends you teach your children to learn the game of “Freeze!”: If you see a dog becoming anxious or worked up, say “Freeze!” This gives both your children and the dog time to catch their breath and calm down.
- There can be such a thing as too many snuggles or too much play. If a dog seems overwhelmed, tell your child to give them some space. All pets should be able to refuse play they don’t enjoy or need a break from and walk away.
- When possible, children should be involved in the daily care of the dog. This will not only instill a sense of responsibility in the child it also teaches the child that the pet is dependent on him or her for good health.
Pets teach children so many wonderful lessons like compassion, responsibility, the importance of physical activity, trust and loyalty – just to name a few. By being taught early on how to behave around their dog, children can grow into responsible, dog loving pet parents.
If you have any questions or need some assistance with helping your kids learn etiquete and dog training skills, please reach out as we’re here to help!