Isn’t it just beautiful to see a child playing with a dog?
Dogs and children can have a beautiful and long-lasting relationship, but if your dog has only been socialized with adult humans, kids can be a challenge for him!
After all, children are energetic, friendly, full of life, and a bit more eccentric that adults. And, that’s something that your doggy friend doesn’t know! In fact, children can sometimes even scare dogs away.
A dog may even respond negatively to a child and snap or bite.
So, it is always a good idea to train your doggy friend to be kid friendly—especially if you have children, are planning on having kids in the foreseeable future, or if you have kids visit you often.
After all, starting off on the right foot is always better than fixing a problem that could have been prevented.
In this blog post, I’ll share some tips on how to train your dog to be kid friendly.
So, let’s begin!
Starting Early: Socialization
We all have children in our lives—even if they aren’t ours. We have nephews, nieces, friend’s kids, etc.
You get the idea, right?
And you should always train your dog to be prepared for handling anything!
So, I really feel that introducing a puppy to kids is the best thing that you can do. This is because, at the ages of eight to 16 weeks, puppies go through a period of development that is critical to determine how they’ll live for the rest of their lives.
This means that the things they learn during this period of their lives would stick forever.
And it is during this critical period that a puppy would accept a variety of people, including kids.
Introducing kids (in a positive manner) during this time period is probably best.
But, there are a few things to consider as well.
Handle With Care
Even if children are well-behaved, you never know how they’ll act around a dog!
While some may be afraid of animals, others can run and hug the dog, or even tug his tail!
And that’s something you must prepare your dog for.
Adults, usually, do not show this kind of attention to dogs.
Your dog could snap at the child, or worse.
So, I would recommend you to prepare your doggy friend for this kind of attention before your dog runs into a child.
One way you can train your dog is by praising him and giving him his favorite treats while you act like a child!
I know this must sound silly but, trust me, it works.
Keep an Eye on the Dog and the Child
One thing you should never forget is that your dog is, after all, an animal.
This means that he lacks a moral compass.
So, you should keep an eye on him whenever he interacts with kids.
And make sure you teach the children to never touch or disturb a sick, sleeping, eating, or a new mommy dog.
Children must be taught that a dog is an animal and should be respected, not manhandled!
Dog’s Safe Area
While dads have their dens and moms have their space, dogs also need a kid-free zone where they can just be alone and relax.
After all, everyone needs a break!
I would encourage you to get your dog a crate—a safe place for your dog to take refuge in—especially if your house is filled with relatives, new people, kids, and noises, like in the holiday season.
Children should especially be told that the crate is out of bounds.
Introducing Your Dog to Children’s Toys
Dogs love toys, but children also love their toys.
The combination of the two can lead to some growling, crying, and snapping.
Children’s toys are also something that can attract dogs. They’ve got remote control cars, dolls, balls, etc. that are colorful and have high-pitched sounds! And, of course, the dog would want to play!
After all, he’s an animal and doesn’t really know the difference between dog toys and kids’ toys.
Since your dog would naturally be attracted to these toys, chances are that he’d like to chew, chase, or steal these toys, which could lead the kids wanting them back and hitting the dog or tugging on the toys.
And, this could have severe consequences.
Introducing your doggy friend to children’s toys before he runs into some kids is a good idea, since it will help you teach your dog commands—such as “stay” or “leave it”—to train him to stay away from these toys while you redirect your dog’s energy to his own toys.
The Right Training Will Take You a Long Way
The cuter your dog, the more likely he is to get attention from kids and grownups.
There are two goals you will need to keep in mind while training your doggy friend:
- Making sure that your dog tolerates children well and enjoys their company
- Teaching your dog the appropriate way to behave around children
This training is important even if you don’t have children of your own, because your dog will eventually encounter kids one way or the other.
And, when that happens, you want things to go smoothly.
Preparing Your Dog for the World
You cannot prepare the whole world for your dog. However, you can easily prepare your dog for the world.
Being a dog owner you are both morally and legally responsible for your dog’s behavior. This means that you must prepare your canine friend for anything that the world could throw at him.
And you can prepare your dog by giving him varied experiences.
For this, you should carry treats with you wherever you take your dog out.
If for example, you take your dog out to a park and you meet a child who wants to pet your dog, you can feed your dog a treat with your hand while the child pets your dog.
This will definitely make your dog welcome the attention of children!
The first step to training your dog to be friendly with kids is having a dog that behaves well with people.
When you teach your dog some basic commands like “sit,” “down,” “lay,” etc., it’ll help him learn to behave well with kids.
Most dogs like to jump up and kiss visitors—which is an inappropriate behavior, especially if the visitor is a kid who may be afraid of dogs or could be knocked over by the dog’s weight and get hurt.
So, teaching your dog basic commands helps channel his energy onto something appropriate.
You can learn more about obedience training on Petdt.com.
The Power of Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is one of the best techniques you can use to help build a good relationship between your dog and children.
You should always praise and reward your dog when he behaves appropriately around children.
It won’t take your dog a long time to figure out how he should behave around kids.
Making Training Fun: Training games
Training games are amazing tools that help encourage the communication between children and dogs, and they can help both parties learn appropriate behaviors.
Keep in mind that you should always supervise these training games because excitement and over-arousal can hurt the dog or the children.
This is a great and fun activity for children and dogs that stimulates the dog both physically and mentally.
Here are the steps to play this game:
- One person is in charge of distracting the dog while the other hides
- When the dog finds the hidden child, he is rewarded with a treat
You can make this game even more challenging by letting the children hide in another room, while you encourage the dog to find the hidden child.
- Tug and sharing games
This game helps in teaching dogs how to share and teaching children how to respect their doggy friends.
You can help both parties learn this by playing a game which has two identical items.
There are a lot of these games, and I won’t go into them all in detail.
But, do keep in mind that you should first play these games with your dog until he gets the hang of it, after which he can play these games with a kid.
- Inside the rope
This is a fun game that also teaches the dog to stay within a boundary while bonding with children.
Here are the steps for the game:
- Take a rope and make a circle from it on the floor
- Let the child throw a treat inside the circle
- As the dog goes inside the circle to eat the treat, praise the dog when he has all four paws inside the circle
- Keep repeating it until the dog gets the hang of it
- Children can be allowed to run around or play in the room while playing this game
If you play this game in various locations both indoors and outdoors, you may not even need a leash to tie your dog up!
Two birds, one stone.
Keep in mind that when playing fetch, the ultimate rule is that the dog should give back the toy he just fetched.
I would advise you to play the game with your dog before you allow children to.
You should always reward your dog with treats, attention, and praise when he lets go of the object.
And keep in mind that you must teach the children to end the game if your dog does not give up the toy he just fetched (or tugs it).
Never Force a Dog to Accept Children
One thing you must never do is to hold the dog so that a child can pet him or play with him.
You must respect the dog’s feelings.
If your dog is afraid of children, this can terrify your dog which can lead to him growling, snapping, biting, etc.
The best thing you can do is give your dog some time and space so that he can get comfortable around kids and approach them on his own when he’s ready.
I hope this article helped you get an idea about how you should go about training your dog to be more kid friendly.
Even if you don’t have children, your dog will still inevitably encounter them sometimes in his life. After all, we all have friends with kids, nephews, nieces, etc.
And it is your sole responsibility both legally and morally, as a dog owner to train your doggy friend to be well-behaved.
Children are different than adults as they are more energetic, happy, and may make loud noises.
You must prepare your dog to behave appropriately when he meets kids.
Marina is a 20-something college student who is a self-proclaimed dog-a-holic. She’s currently pursuing her master’s degree and writes a blog named PetDt. She plans on opening a dog shelter one day.