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Lead by example to show your child how to interact appropriately with dogs

Leading by example is a fantastic way to teach your children how to interact appropriately with dogs. “My child loves dogs so much but I find it hard to control them when we are around dogs. What can I do?” I get this question often from parents and honestly, the answer is simple – you need to control them! Like in any situation where your child is playing up, you are the parent, you need to take charge and lead by example.

Lead by example to show your child how to interact appropriately with dogs

I had one mum write in to me recently and she explained that her son loves to put his face in her dog’s face and other dog’s faces. She was worried that one day he might get his face bitten. And fair enough, many dogs find this quite confronting, especially from an unpredictable child. I had another mum from kinder ask me what to do with her daughter who is constantly running up to random dogs and just being all over them. I see it often and to be honest with you, it frightens me! My dog, Cooper, is amazing, but my old dog, when I was growing up, wasn’t. So I have seen it first-hand. My old dog was quite anxious around strangers, so if a child he didn’t know came at him, he probably would have given a big clear warning sign which wouldn’t have been very nice for the child. (Click here for more on knowing a dogs warning signs.)


My advice to all parents who are going through this or something similar is to start teaching your children how to interact appropriately with dogs and to lead by example. When you interact with your dog and other dogs you need to keep in mind that your child is most likely watching you and going to mirror your behaviours. So you need to start displaying the correct behaviours that you want your child to display as well.

There are five key things you can teach your child to do with dogs (click here if you want to read about each one of these in more detail):

  1. Teach them to be gentle.
  2. Teach them to always ask before patting a stranger’s dog.
  3. Teach them to call the dog over to them, rather than sticking their hand in the dog’s face.
  4. Teach them that not all dogs like to be patted on the head.
  5. Teach them to read the signs when the dog is uncomfortable or has had enough.

And a list of ten key things you must teach your child NEVER to do to dogs:

  1. Climb on the dog
  2. Chase the dog
  3. Pull hair, ears, tail, etc
  4. Stick fingers in the dog’s eyes, mouth, nose ears, bum
  5. Play with the dog’s food or water bowls
  6. Stand over and watch the dog eat
  7. Annoy/wake a sleeping dog
  8. Take the dogs food out of a dog’s food bowl
  9. Take anything out of a dog’s mouth
  10. Tease a dog with a toy or food that you know it wants


Leading by example in the home.

If you have your own dog at home, call the dog to you for a pat while your child is sitting with you and spend time showing your child how to be gentle with the dog and how to pat them nicely. Explain to them that if the dog doesn’t want to be patted, we must leave it alone and not chase after it. If your child is displaying some of those unwanted behaviours mentioned above, make sure to explain that we don’t do that to our dog or any other dog because they really don’t like it. Like with any of my training tips in the past, it is super important to really reward your child and your dog when everyone is happy and relaxed.

Lead by example to show your child how to interact appropriately with dogs

Leading by example out of the home.

Use every opportunity you can as a learning opportunity. Every day when we get to kinder, there are dogs tied up out the front and if the owner is not there, I always tell my kids, “we don’t know these doggies and the owners aren’t here to ask for a pat so we don’t touch them, just wave hello and let’s keep walking.” Even if the dog is SO cute and you just want to pat it, use some self-control, so your child can learn from you. Show your child that you don’t just approach a strange dog. Talk them through it. Point out when you see a cute dog in the street, but tell them that you don’t just go up and pat it. Not all dogs are friendly. Some are old, nervous, sore, anxious or just might not like children. Always explain it to them and lead by example. You must always ask the owner first if you can pat the dog, what its name is and if it has a favourite spot to be patted.

As a parent, you really need to be on top of it. Prevent these situations occurring where you can. If you’re out in the street and you see a dog in the distance, be ready. Hold your child’s hand, don’t let them run at the dog. When your child does do something that you don’t like/the dog might not like, you need to make sure you stop them in the act and tell them each and every time that that’s now how we behave around dogs, rather we do this…  and again, just talking them through it and explaining. Leading by example. When your child does the correct thing, give lots and lots of praise and let them know how good that was and how proud you are.

Lead by example to show your child how to interact appropriately with dogs

I get it, when your kids are young it’s not always so easy.

My little boy, Paxton, is 2 so I totally get that it’s a hard age when it comes to disciplining and actually getting them to listen. But the key is consistency. Constantly show your child how to interact correctly with dogs and really reward them when they do it correctly. Spend that extra special time with them really showing them the right way. They will eventually get it! I remember when Harper, my daughter hit 2.5, I noticed how much she changed and started listening to me more. Hopefully if you get on top of it now, with lots of repetition, your kids will get it too.

Lead by example to show your child how to interact appropriately with dogs

Even if your dog is an angel, these are good lessons to teach your child regardless, because you just never know how another dog might react, plus you never know how your dog might react if caught off guard or when sleeping. It’s never worth the risk. So PLEASE NEVER leave your child alone and unattended with a dog. Always make sure to supervise and step in if you feel the dog is uncomfortable or the child is at risk. And please, if you think your dog is a risk to your children, please seek the help from a dog trainer/behaviourist ASAP. And just remember, rather than getting angry at your children for doing the wrong thing, really try spending time with them showing them the right way.

For more on this topic please have a read of this article.


This is probably one of the most important articles I have written yet and it goes into all of this in much further details so please make sure to have a good read and share it with friends and family who have children and dogs.


Another goodie for dog owners, is this one.


It’s one thing to teach our kids how to behave around dogs but it’s also important that we teach our dogs some manners around children.


If you have any questions on this topic or would like some help or guidance with any of it, please feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email via the CONTACT tab.


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Mel xox

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog. I will not be liable for anything that happens to your dog or children by following my advice and tips. If you have real concerns or worries about your dog and/or safety of your children, please seek out a professional to come and assess the situation.



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