Dogs and Kids

Dogs and kids just seem to go together. Ensure that you have a happy household by selecting a dog with the best temperament to live with children. Then teach kids how to be an active and integral part of the dog’s life. The benefits for everyone in the family are substantial!

Dogs And Kids

Rules to Mixing Dogs and Kids Together

Many households consist of both kids and dogs. Because of this, it is important that our dogs get along with ALL members of our family. When it comes to introducing a dog into a household with children, there are a few rules to follow.

Rule #1

Carefully choose a puppy or dog that really likes children. There are many dogs who will politely put up with children, and then there are dogs who really adore children. A dog that falls into the later category is the one you want to find for your family. To achieve this goal, seek a professional dog trainer who can help you select a dog or puppy from a shelter with the correct personality and temperament for children. If you are going to buy a puppy from a breeder, make sure you know the puppy’s mother and father, inquire what kind of socialization the breeder is doing with the puppies (there should be human children regularly interacting with the puppies), and ask to talk to other families who have adopted the breeder’s puppies to inquire how the dogs and kids interacted together.

Rule #2

Never leave dogs and kids alone or unsupervised. Not for even a single minute, no matter how wonderful the dog, or how long the dog and child have known each other. Dogs are animals, children are unpredictable and accidents can happen.

Rule #3

Teach children how to approach and interact with a dog. Instruct them not to approach dogs they do not know, and guide them in reading some obvious dog behaviors such as a dog who looks friendly verses a dog who looks aggressive. Because not all dogs are friendly, teach children to:

  • Be alert to dogs in the area they are playing.

  • Not to approach a strange dog.

  • Not to approach a dog who is eating, sleeping, or a dog who avoids them.

  • If approached by a dog they do not know, instruct children to be “a tree”. Practice standing still, avoiding eye contact with the dog (but keeping the dog in sight out of the corner of your eye) and being quiet.

  • Find protection or a means of escape, and slowly (without running) back away.

  • Become “a rock” if attacked by a dog. This means curling into a ball and protecting their face, throat, neck and vital organs.

There are several resources for parents who are looking for guides on successful interactions between dogs and kids. One good place to find information is with a local professional dog trainer who uses positive reinforcement. Some trainers even have classes specifically designed to teach kids with dogs.

Additional Information You May Also Find Helpful:

Children And Dogs: Important Information For Parents

Books: Living with Kids and Dogs...Without Losing Your Mind , by Colleen Pelar

Video: Dogs, Cats & Kids: Learning to Be Safe With Animals. Created by Donald Manelli with Wayne Hunthausen, DVM. This short video helps children read animal body language, shows children how to handle animals and demonstrates what to do in a dog attack.

The Wonderful Benefits For Kids With Dogs

Because many children are drawn to animals, quite often the children are the ones trying to initiate getting a dog for the family. Sometimes parents are reluctant to bring a dog into their household because dogs do require a lot of time, energy and money. However, there are several benefits to children having a dog in the house, such as:

  • Kids learn responsibility. Asking the children of the household to take part in the care of the dog is a great way to teach kids that a living being is relying on them. Great tasks for children are to feed the dog, walk the dog, clean up after the dog and go to dog training classes with the dog.

  • Having a dog encourages empathy in children. Caring about an individual that is so reliant on others for its needs helps nurture a protective attitude in children for living creatures.

  • The non-judgmental companionship of a dog encourages self-esteem. Dogs are always so excited to see us when we walk in the door. No one else greets us like that! Dogs also are good for cuddling on a bad day or when you are feeling sad. With a dog, your child is almost always guaranteed a buddy.

  • Helps develop social skills. Learning to train a dog using positive training techniques helps build a fantastic foundation for your child’s interactions with friends, teachers, peers and their own parents!

Dogs And Children

Sometimes, much to the pleasant surprise of a parent, kids often make the best dog trainers! Considering the roles dogs and kids play in each other’s lives, it is important to invest the effort in a smooth relationship. Before you get or adopt a dog, make sure your child knows what kind of responsibilities are expected of him or her in caring for the dog. Set up a list of their duties and be sure to reward them for being successful!

Check out classes at the local training center or seek the services of a private dog trainer who can give you tips to make the most out of having the kids train the dog.

When kids use positive training techniques, they will use treats to reward the dog. Having the dog associate children with making good things happen is a great way to further cement the bond they share. Other attributes that kids have going for them when it comes to training the family dog is that they are:

  • Active. With all the energy they have, encourage kids to put it to good use by training and exercising the dog.

  • Kids are closer in size to dogs, therefore probably interpreted as less intimidating. Kids are also more likely to “play” with the dog to get good behavior, rather than use physical force to make the dog do things.

  • Kids seem to rejoice in having fun and forgetting about failures better than adults do. Therefore, they are likely to get less frustrated with the dog than their adult counterparts.

As many families will agree, there is nothing better than a happy household! Giving children the skills to take care of and train the dog will help the dog, the children and the parents! Dogs and kids often form a special relationship with one another. They are playmates, best friends and trusty companions. And, after all, isn’t that what family is all about?

Dogs And Kids - Additional Tips


  • Do provide a crate or indoor kennel for the dog to retreat to.

  • Do make sure the children understand and use the basic training commands you teach the puppy. Teach by example.

  • Do always supervise children around dogs, especially young toddlers when playing with the dog.

  • Do encourage a responsible and caring attitude to the dog.

  • Do teach your children that they should always ask the owner's permission before touching a dog.

  • Do guide your children to stroke the dog from the side, not from the front, and tell them that they should never pat the dog's head.


  • Don't give the children total care or the responsibility for training a dog until they are mature and sensible.- they may teach the dog the wrong behavior.

  • Don't allow children to tease, torment or shout at the dog. Dogs that are chased, tormented, or tease in what the kids perceive as fun are the ones that are most likely to attack when they've enough.

  • Don't let the dog become aggressive in play with the children. Stop games immediately if they are getting out of control.

  • Don't leave small children alone with the dog. Both dogs and kids are unpredictable and accidents can happen.

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