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How to teach children to handle dogs

Ever seen a child jump on a dog, or try to ride it, or pull its ears? Most children love to play with dogs, however what they may not realize, due to their age and the pet parent’s lack of information that most dogs patiently put up with that kind of rough handling. However, you never know when a situation can arise. The wonderful companionship that dogs and children innately share is what has made, since time immemorial, the dog a popular family pet.

Some dogs when caught unaware or when painfully handled, often react out of sheer fear and confusion and not with the intent to harm. The experience of living with a family dog shouldn’t be a traumatic experience for neither the dog nor the child, especially when there are easy steps to prevent the situation. With guidance and the occasional initial supervision your dog and your child can develop safe fulfilling friendships. Here a few tips that will help with the same:

1. First and foremost you should teach your children to always ask pet parents for permission to interact with pets that aren’t yours. You could practice with stuffed animals at home so that your child is prepared and so that any mishaps are prevented if the dog isn’t a very friendly one. The child, when approaching a new dog, should ideally, first ask permission, then softly pet the dog and talk in calm tones to it. Talking softly to the pet tells it that you mean NO harm.

2. Dogs need time to themselves just as much as humans do and it’s only fair that we give them the same. When your pet is eating or napping, it’s better to not disturb or aggravate or pull the dog away from its ‘me’ time. Tell your children, to let the pet be how much ever they may want to play with pet. The pet will automatically, after a good meal or some rest, want to frolic around and play.

3. Next step is to show your children polite petting. Explain to your child that dogs love to be stroked under the chin, around the ears and patted softly as that makes them feel comfortable. This also means discouraging unpleasant treatment like, poking, pinching, slapping, and pulling on fur, tails or ears. Dogs may find frequent patting on the head invasive.

4. A frisky little puppy can easily squirm out of the child’s hand and get hurt, or in the process hurt your child too, that’s why it is advisable that small children be taught how to carry puppies. The right way to pick up a pup is to place your right hand under the dog’s chest, cradle the bottom with their left hand, and carry them close to your body. They’ll snuggle up and get comfortable then, and are less likely to jump out of your hands.

5. Children by nature at a small age have a lot of energy and have a tendency to run around and yell, which is something that dogs don’t understand. Dogs can get excited thinking that it’s play time and in that excitement hurt the child, or they can get scared and respond by chasing or even jumping! It's also important to make sure that your child knows that teasing the pet is a complete no no too as that too can provoke them.

Even if you’ve got the friendliest dog, a situation can develop in an instant. Although they mean no harm, children can do a number of things to trigger inappropriate actions in dogs, and it could all stem from a harmless mistake. Here are some things that as a parent and a pet parent you should keep in mind.

6. When a dog is startled or in pain, he may bite. Defense is a natural response even for domestic pets. Children may never understand that their actions might end up hurting the pet, especially because they are not aware of any warning signs that the pet might give away.

7. Just like some of us don’t like to share our food, dogs can be territorial about the things they like too. They may act in an inappropriate manner if a child comes too close while playing or eating.

8. Children may think that a dog growling or snarling is amusing. This could be a source of entertainment for the child. When they discover that certain actions can make a dog snap, they repeat those actions. Dogs when repeatedly provoked will bite or paw the child out of frustration. Some children think just the opposite and instead they are terrified by it. When a dog growls, or even barks at the doorbell, a child may get frightened and interpret it as a sign of violence. Frightened children may shriek and run away which will frighten or probably excite the dog into thinking there’s some sort of game being played.

9. Sometimes dogs just don’t realize how big and strong they are and in excitement or during play time accidentally land up hurting the child. We have to be prepared for scenarios like these especially around large breeds. Do not yell at the pet, instead teach your children what they should/shouldn’t do.

10. Many people assume that dogs are okay with children playing with them roughly, however one should realize that rather than letting things get out of hand, it is important to teach your child the right way instead. Some parents may allow their child to chase, pull tails, poke and generally be bothersome to the pet and expect the pet to put up with it in the long run. Allowing a child to mistreat animals, will give them leeway to do so more often and with pets that are not their own too. It is imperative that children know that all living creatures should be treated well.

The best advice is that you, at the early stages, supervise all interactions between your pets and your kids. It takes an instant for things to go awry. So, watch for signs of trouble and supervise diligently so that you can step in when needed.

These potential problems shouldn't stop you from getting a pet. It is a beautiful relationship that your child should be introduced to at a young age and one that will be a long and fruitful one for both the pet and the family!


Hi, thanks for stopping by!

Pooja Advani

Pet Industry Expert, Canine Behaviourist, Consultation & Training

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