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How to Teach Children Dog Safe Behaviour in 10 Easy Steps

Miranda Wimbush, a frequent contributor to our Blog and former Volunteer, offers some tips on a topic that never gets old.  Miranda has decided to follow her passion; she is launching her own dog training business, The Mindful Canine.  For more information check out Miranda’s  website,, or follow her on FB (The Mindful Canine) 


Your child and dog can be the best of friends if care is taken to teach respect, and active adult supervision is provided. We need to remember that although dogs are cute and cuddly they are not furry humans and can still behave unpredictably; children should never be left unsupervised with even a friendly, familiar dog and care should be taken that the dog always has place to get away from a child if he is feeling overwhelmed. Management tools such as crates, pens, rooms and baby gates are your friend if an adult is not directly supervising the interaction. If you take the time to teach your child to give your dog adequate space and how to behave calmly around him the result will be a much more harmonious relationship. So many dogs are surrendered to shelters or euthanized for dog bites directed at children each year; let’s be an advocate for our dogs and help our kids learn how to be dog safe.


 Here are 10 dog safety rules and tips on how to teach them to children:

  1. Give dogs space when they are eating. It's important to teach children not to approach a dog who is eating or chewing anything as it’s dogs’ natural instinct to protect their food. Even if your dog is friendly and does not normally guard his food, this may not be the case for other dogs your child encounters-so this is an important one.
  2. Dogs don't enjoy hugging. Although your child may see this as a way to display affection towards your dog, dogs see hugging as threatening as it restricts their ability to get away and it can make them nervous. If your child enjoys hugging your dog get him a stuffed dog and explain that that is the dog that it is acceptable to hug. When he's interacting with your dog teach him the “One Hand” rule. One hand is enough, two is too many. Have him pet the dog from shoulder to rear and not directly on the face, which dogs don't generally enjoy.
  3. Be calm around the dog. Many dogs especially older dogs do not enjoy excess rambunctiousness. Avoid having your children run, scream or taunt your dog. Rather, engage your children in playing games like fetch or hide and seek for fun, constructive play that both parties will enjoy.
  4. Leave dogs alone when sleeping. Dogs are easily startled when sleeping so it's best to teach your child to give them plenty of space when they are resting. As well if you prevent your child from approaching your dog when he goes to his bed or crate he will understand that this is his safe space and retreat there when he is feeling overwhelmed.
  5. Have your child give treats and toys to your dog, but not take them away. It's best to keep your dog loving your child approaching him and avoid any potential object guarding by having kids always be the good guys. Teach your child to come get you if and object or treat needs to be taken away from the dog.
  6. Don't approach strange and pet strange dogs without permission. Many dogs don't enjoy children, and this coupled with the fact that most children run straight up into dogs faces, which they find threatening, and dogs freedom is restricted by a leash makes it a less than ideal way to meet.
  7. For older children you can teach your child about dog body language. A happy dog is relaxed and loose, whereas a scared dog often has stiff body language. A video such as this one can help your child understand the different signs dogs give off and when to let them be. As well, it's helpful to teach children to hold their hand out in a fist and see if the dog approaches them. If the dog initiates contact then he can be calmly pet over the shoulder area or scratched under the chin. If the dog doesn't approach it's usually a good idea to give him space.
  8. If your child is approached by an unfamiliar dog teach him to Be A Tree! Stand completely still with his arms folded, feet rooted and eyes looking downward and call for help. Children instinctively want to run and scream when faced with a situation with an unfamiliar dog, which is counterproductive as it promotes dogs chase instinct. Teach your child and practice ahead of time will keep everyone safe. For more information visit
  9. Incorporate your child into the training process with your dog! Clicker training is a fabulous way to help your older child discover how dogs learn and promotes positive, calm interaction. Children will love being able to learn how to teach dogs new behaviours and tricks and it will promote positive bonding.
  10. For a fun way to teach these dog safely lessons check out these dog safety videos made just for kids and


Thanks for reading and I hope these tips helped you!



Thanks for reading and I hope these tips helped you!




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