Virginia Simpson and Chance

Dogs and Children

by Virginia Simpson, Unleashed Canine Obedience


It’s the perfect image really.  A dog and his boy; running through a creek or puddles of water together, spending quiet time sitting side-by-side gazing at the ocean; wet noses, sandy feet and lots of shared giggles.  And that perfect image is in fact achievable when you pair a dog that is great with kids and a child who understands the proper way to move and be with a dog.

What is the perfect kid dog?  Nobody’s perfect and there is no perfect breed for kids really.  It’s about the individual temperament.  Not too long ago everyone thought the Pit bull was the perfect nanny dog.  The Pit bull was the image of the perfect dog for kids in TV shows like The Little Rascals.  Just like some people should probably never have kids, some dogs just shouldn’t be living with young children.  A dog needs to have a large supply of patience and tolerance to be considered good with kids.  You don’t want a dog to be so protective that they protect your child from their friends.  The dog should have a stable personality which means they get along well with others; other dogs, other people, other kids.  They won’t have any phobias or major areas of anxiety.  And they will be well trained and have great manners both inside and outside the home.  (Of course I was going to mention training!;-))

And kids need to be taught how to behave properly around not only their dog, but other dogs as well.  Number 1 Rule for Kids and Dogs:  Never leave a young child and a dog unattended.  Children are learning how to interpret body language from their own species let alone learning to read dogs’ body language.  Hopefully with some help from their parents and other adults, all children can learn how to empathize with others including the family pet.  But it takes a while to get good at it.  One example of a cue that is often missed is when a dog that has had enough of any interactions tries to move away from the child and that child continues to follow the dog around the room or house trying to get the dog to engage.  The first thing most dogs will do when they are uncomfortable or want to stop any engagement is attempt to move away from the situation.  Young children may be more concerned about what they want and fail to notice that the dog has become uncomfortable.  You might see the dog give a big yawn.  Whenever a dog yawns and they are not tired, it’s called a stress yawn and is an indication that the dog is not comfortable with whatever is going on.  The next warning sign (hopefully) will be a little growl.  That should definitely have parents scurrying to stop the interaction and then help the child see where they missed the earlier warning signs.  In addition to reading body language and cues that a dog has had enough attention, they need to be taught the obvious stuff as well, like they can’t jump on the dog or pull its ears or mess with their pup when it’s eating or chewing a bone.  These are all situations that bring on the highest number of bites for children.  When children are playing with a dog, the adults need to be familiar with and looking for signs of stress from their dog.

Children without dogs in their homes should also be taught how to behave around animals.  Someday they are going to have to interact with someone’s pet.  It can be a tricky thing to teach a child to not fear dogs and yet at the same time, teach them they can’t just assume all dogs are nice to young people.  Young children also have a tendency to run away from a situation they are unsure of, and that can lead a dog to give chase!  Dogs will naturally run after something that is running away from them.  This can cause the child to scream which can really cause a dog to become escalated.  Even the most friendly pooch in the world can become extremely escalated when something is screaming and running away from them.  It is important to teach a child to remain calm around dogs that they don’t know and to let an adult know with a calm voice if they are uncomfortable and don’t want the dog to approach them.  You can show them yourself how a dog will react to different behaviors.  Show them what the dog does if you remain calm and then run away and show how the dog will give chase.  Some kids need a visual to better understand.  If they are excited to meet a dog, they should be taught not to approach that dog until they have asked the owner if it is ok.

Kids and dogs can be pretty cute together and that relationship can be one that a child carries with them throughout their lifetime as long as some safety measures are in place.  For more information, please feel free to contact me any time.


Virginia L. Simpson
Certified Dog Trainer
Unleashed Canine Obedience, LLC
IACP Member #3141
Phone:  513.317.7484