Training for Children: How to Be with a Dog by Dr Elaine Cebuliak

Children and a new dog hanging out together harmoniously is not always an automatic occurrence. This article is designed to teach parents and other adults about children and dogs so that they can then handle situations their own way. The important thing to know is that it is natural for your dog to react poorly. There is nothing wrong with your dog — a dog can react negatively to the activities of normal children.

Here are some points to be aware of:

1. Talk to the owner before you go near a dog. Ask if the dog is friendly. Ask if the dog is used to children (now you know—but some dog owners might not know—that kids are something special for dogs to get used to). You can make friends with dogs in your neighbourhood, as long as the owners agree and are there for the first meeting.

2. Do not pat a dog on top of the head. A dog may not like that. Your hand coming over the top of his head can be scary. He can’t see your hand above him—so he might think you’re going to hit him. Touch a dog on his shoulder instead.

3. Do not look right in the dog’s eyes. Dogs think it is really rude to stare. Your mom probably tells you not to stare at people, too, right? Except the difference with dogs is that staring right at their face makes them think you want to fight with them. So, don’t stare into a dog’s face—if he thinks you want to fight him, who’s going to win that fight? The one with the most big, shiny, sharp teeth.

4. Your own dog is not all dogs. You probably understand a lot about dogs because you are growing up with one. But every dog is different. Don’t ever think that “dogs are dogs,” and what works with your dog at home will be the same for all dogs.

5. Hand signals can be dangerous. Don’t try to give a strange dog any commands or use a hand signal you know from your own dog. Most dogs have learned hand signals that tell them what to do—but maybe not the same hand signals that you know for “sit” and “shake.” The dog may not like signals he doesn’t know; you can never tell how a dog will react to something strange to him.

6. Do not reach over a fence to pat a dog—or reach into a crate or into a car window to pat a dog. When a dog is on his own property, he wants to protect it, so don’t put your hand anywhere near a dog in a car, a kennel or his fenced yard.

7. If a dog lifts his lip and shows you his teeth, it means he wants you to go away. Right away. So, if any dog ever shows you his teeth, DO what he wants and back off.

8. A dog who lies down and shows his tummy to you is showing that he wants to be friends. It means he trusts you. He wants you to rub his tummy, so go right ahead.

9. Respect a dog’s “personal space.” Don’t touch or bother a dog when he is eating, sleeping or even peeing!

10. Don’t surprise a dog. Even the nicest dog can turn mean if he is surprised. If a dog is resting, don’t just come up behind him and pat him. A dog can be shocked by something touching him when he doesn’t expect it. It could make him scared or angry enough to bite. So let a dog know you’re there by saying something before you touch him and make sure he heard you.

11. An older dog may not feel well, so just leave him alone. An old dog can feel pain in his body; maybe he doesn’t see or hear so well, either. An older dog is like your grandpa or grandma: when people and dogs get older they have some problems and sometimes they just want to be left alone.

12. Don’t bother a mother dog with her puppies. She does not want to be disturbed. She does not feel safe letting strangers touch her babies or even come near them.

13. Running right toward the dog can frighten him. Walk slowly toward a dog; say a few friendly words so he knows you are a nice person. 14. Not all tail-wagging is happy. People probably told you that a wagging tail means a dog is happy—but there are times when a wagging tail means something else. If the dog’s tail is low and sweeps from side to side, that is a happy wag. But there can be danger if the dog holds his tail high and stiff and it wags only at the tip. If there is another dog around, the dog with the high tail might try to start a fight.

15. Screaming or yelling loudly can upset a dog. It’s natural for kids to be loud when they’re having a good time, but dogs have such good hearing that they can hear a leaf fall off a tree. So loud kid-voices can hurt their ears and put them in a bad mood.

16. Jumping up and down can frighten a dog. He can get worried and think you’re going to do something bad to him.

17. Pulling a dog’s ears or tail is NEVER a game to a dog. It’s like someone pulling your hair. It hurts: it can make a dog angry.

18. If you see a dog by himself, he may be lost. He may be scared or confused, so he could hurt you. Don’t try to make friends with him or rescue him. He might be so upset that he tries to chase or bite you. Tell an adult and they’ll figure out what to do safely.

19. Stay away if a dog looks hurt or sick. When dogs are in pain or don’t feel well, they can be mean to people. If a dog has been hit by a car, he could be in a lot of pain, or be in shock. There is a good chance he will bite. Tell an adult, so they can call the owner or get help for the dog.

20. Stay away from dogs who are fighting or growling. You could get badly hurt if you get in the middle of two dogs having an argument. Even if it’s your own dog, do not put your hand anywhere near them, and do not try to grab a collar. Call an adult for help.

21. Be a tree when a dog you don’t know comes up to you. Stand straight with your feet together. Hold your hands up under your chin, and hug your elbows in close to your body. Don’t let any part of you stick out. Make yourself into one solid pole, like a tree trunk. If no part of you is moving, there’s nothing for a dog to bite.

22. Stand still until the strange dog walks away. Many dogs will just sniff you and leave. Once the dog walks away, you can walk away. But don’t run: move slowly. And don’t turn and run—walk backward, slowly. If you run, it makes the dog want to chase you.

23. Don’t run away from a dog. Running really fast can frighten a dog. It can also make the dog want to chase you or hunt you like a rabbit. And if it’s a race between you and a dog, who do you think would win? The one with four legs!

24. If you are walking, running, skateboarding or riding your bicycle and a dog growls, barks or runs at you, push something at him to bite instead of you. Push your bike, your backpack or your skateboard at the dog so he bites one of those and not you.

25. If a dog knocks you down or you fall, be a big solid rock. Stay very still. If you don’t move around, the dog will be less interested in you. Think of yourself as a rock or a boulder. Scrunch up on your knees with your head down, facing the ground. Curl up into a ball with your fists covering the back of your neck and your wrists over your ears. In this position you are less interesting to a dog. If you cover your head and face with your arms, it can protect you from being really hurt.

Dr Elaine Cebuliak

Dr Elaine is a highly experienced holistic vet and pioneer of Animal Wellness in Brisbane. She also assists with many charitable projects in Australia and in Bali.

Add comment


Join our e-newsletter and hear about our latest news and insights.

* indicates required


Click on the Cover to Read About Susan Lazar Hart

Welcome Barbara Brewster!

Dom LivKamal’s Medicine Room

White Light Publishing

Pitch, Write and Be Seen by Vanessa Finnigan!

Vanessa Finnigan, founder, being interviewed in Europe

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular

Most discussed