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Simple Rules For Introducing Children To Dogs

kid and dog meet 3

As the adoptions manager for a small dog rescue, I’ve seen my fair share of kid to dog meet and greets that could have gone a lot better. It’s my job to know the behavior of every foster dog in our care but I can’t control how prospective human brothers and sisters will behave during an introduction. I do my best to steer the potential adopters in the right direction, “Fido is a bit shy with new people, you might want to take it slow”, but my advice only goes so far. Often enough, the kids come off a bit strong and the parents aren’t sure how to help.

You aren’t in the market for a new dog any time soon, so why should any of this concern you?

I’m glad you asked. Let’s say you have kids but no dog. Or maybe you’re like me, no kids but three dogs. Even if you have one without the other, chances are you will at some point have an encounter or two at the park or on a walk. When it comes to kids (or any human for that matter) and dogs meeting, there is a right way and a wrong way. Not only are children smaller and more vulnerable than an adult, but they can seem strange to a dog who may be unfamiliar with miniature humans.

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Here a few rules for kid and dog introductions.

1. Ask first! I’m always impressed when a child asks permission to pet my dogs before just lunging at them. Not only is it polite, but it’s safe too. You never know if a dog may be fearful or aggressive around new people or kids in particular.

2. Once given permission, don’t assume the dog in question wants to be hugged and climbed on. Instead, a strange dog should be greeted with one arm extended to allow for safe distance sniffing. The decision to approach should always be the dog’s. Don’t stare a new dog directly in the eyes, look away as the dog approaches.

3. If Fido is into it, he will come closer, sniff more, or even give a lick or two. If this is the case, you’ve got the green light for more interaction. Try gentle petting on the side of the face or body. Avoid reaching for the top of the dog’s head.

4. If the dog seems anxious, turning his head, trying to get away, or trying to ignore you, this means he is uncomfortable and the interaction should go no further. Don’t let this hurt your feelings, this just means the dog is nervous and needs some time to warm up.

5. In general, don’t put your face or let your child put his or her face anywhere near the dog’s face. This means no kisses for strange dogs, pets and strokes only. Don’t allow your kids to yell or shout near or at the dog. This will surely frighten the poor pup and spoil the interaction.

Good manners during the first meet and greet will not only build positive socialization experience for your child or dog, but it will also make for safer interactions. Dogs and kids can be the best of friends, trust me, I see it every day.

Sam Dobson is a dog mom to three rescues and has over eight years experience in the pet care industry. She currently manages a small rescue organization that finds homes for dogs who would otherwise be euthanized. Sam is a contributing writer for a national lifestyle publication, co-founder of, and writes a lifestyle blog.
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