Etiquette guide: How kids should and should not interact with dogs

Young girl with golden retriever walking awayKids and dogs

Our hoomans take us to dog obedience school to help us socialise with other dogs and people. We always thought that schools would teach children how to interact with us mutts because kiddies can sometimes be overwhelming and knowing the right way to approach us and interact with us can keep everyone happy and safe.

So here’s a guide for how children should and should not interact with us canines.

How kids should NOT interact with dogs:

Try not to bother us when we are eating. Most people don’t like it when others stick their grimy hands in their meal. Similarly, we prefer to eat in peace.

Avoid taking bones or toys from our mouths. Children are taught to share, so why can’t they share with us mutts? We can be trained to give up our toys for a rewars, this way we will willingly give our toy insted of feeling possessive. But even if we let you take from our mouths, kids should be taught to leave our toys alone just in-case we try and snatch the toy back.

Avoid putting your face close to our face. Kids can’t help but get close up and personal. Putting your face close to our snout can be irritating for us, especially when we have no control over the child’s behaviour.

Avoid disturbing us when we are resting. Most people dislike being disturbed when they are resting or sleeping. Fortunately for hoomans, they can often close or lock the bedroom door. Similarly, we need a safe location where we can be away from excitement. Kids should avoid disturbing us in our “private” location or any time we are sleeping or resting. If they call us from far away and we choose to get up and go to the child, this type of interaction is okay. But if we choose to be left alone, we should be.

Avoid grabbing tail/ears. We all know how cute and fluffy our ears and tails are however when pulled or tugged us mutts generally don’t like this handling. Children should be taught to pat gently and avoid pulling.

Avoid screaming (well at least try to). Loud screaming can frazzle the humans, so imagine its effect on us sound-sensitive dogs!

Avoid tight hugging. You can train us mutts, especially as puppies, to enjoy cuddling and hugging and other close handling. But even so, it’s important for children to know the types of interactions we like and also to realise that other dogs may not have the same tolerance as their dog does.

How kids should interact with dogs:

With all of these DONT’s, it must seem like kids can’t interact with pets at all. In reality, they just need to be taught to be kind to animals, instead of treating their companion like a toy. Parents should also teach their children to read the signs that Fido is fearful or anxious, so that the child knows when to give Fido some space.

Once kids understand how they should interact with dogs, they can be taught appropriate games to play. Fetch where the dog willingly gives the toy before it’s tossed is fun for dogs who love to retrieve. Kids and pets love to learn tricks that result in rewards such as yummy treats or bits of the dog’s meal/kibble.

All dogs need their exercise, and kids can be a part of this too if the dog is well-trained. Hide-n-seek is a great way for dogs to learn to have fun, and the dog is practicing his search and rescue skills.

Hoomas should ensure that us dogs have lots of positive associations with the kids. The kids can regularly give food rewards for the dog’s calm, polite behaviour, such as sitting or lying downs.

But be careful: Even if the child is well-behaved and the dog very tolerant, it’s essential for all interactions to be supervised. Accidents can happen in a split second.

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These great posters have been provided by Dr Sophia Yin. 

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