child snuggling with dog

How To Teach Respect For Dogs To Children

Teaching respect for dogs is something all parents should instill in their children at a young age. Just as dogs are trained, so too, are children in how they behave around dogs. Whether a dog shares your life at present or not, kids should know the dos and don’ts of how to behave around and with a dog.

The late great veterinarian, Dr. Sophia Yin, says the same things that drive a dog to bite the family kids are the same things that cause adults to need a break from kids. For example, people don’t like it when someone sticks their dirty hands into their meal. The same holds for dogs, as dogs want to be left alone to eat in peace.

Children are taught that stealing toys is wrong, and respect for dogs includes leaving their toys alone. Dogs should be trained to drop or give up a toy with positive reinforcement by the adult owner.

Sometimes, dogs have special needs, and kids may not understand what’s happening to their beloved pets. Having an honest talk with your children about illnesses or physical differences is important, especially when it comes to the family dog.

Here are my favorite tips to teach respect for dogs to children of all ages:

Teach Children Respect For Dogs At A Young Age

1. Never place your hands in a dog’s meal, food bowl, or try to pull food from a dog’s mouth.
2. Don’t steal toys from a dog, especially toys in a dog’s mouth.
3. Teach kids never to put their face near a dog and to maintain proper social distance.
4. Do not disturb a dog while he is sleeping.
5. Don’t roughly handle a dog, as all dogs deserve respect.
6. Never ride on, step on, or climb on a dog. Dogs are not meant to be ridden.
7. Do not pull a dog’s tail.
8. Do not slap or hit a dog.
9. Never run-up to a dog and scream at him.
10. Do not share your people’s food with a dog. It may harm him.
11. Do not pet a dog without asking first.
12. Never squeeze any part of a dog’s body, including his face.
13. Most dogs do not like to be hugged, so avoid this.
14. Screaming is rude and loud and can cause a dog to fear children.
15. Don’t laugh at, ridicule, or make fun of dogs with your friends.

If you were a dog, would you want anyone to do any of these things to you? Of course not, which is why respect for dogs begins at a young age.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

baby sitting with cocker spaniel
Dexter knows how to behave around kids.

How To Prevent Dog Bites In Children

I cringe when I see videos of young kids touching a sleeping dog’s face or crawling all over them. These videos wrack up millions of views on YouTube and TikTok, but they only reinforce bad behavior and lack of adult supervision. Sometimes, the adults simply don’t understand that dogs are not play toys but living beings.

To teach children respect for dogs, adults must be role models. Every year, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs, with the majority of them being children. The American Veterinary Medical Association says dog bites in kids are highest in the five to nine-year-old age range.

Sadly, most dog bites occur during everyday activities in the home or outside when young kids are interacting with dogs. At least 80 percent of dog bites happen in the home.

Young kids should always be supervised around dogs, with no exceptions. Teach kids not to yell, run towards, scream, or pull at dogs. In addition to the rules above, gentle behavior should be taught so that kids can learn to read a dog’s body language.

Here are 9 ways to prevent dog bites in children and adults.

True fact: As of this point in my life, I’ve been bitten twice, and both times the bites came from a child under six years of age.

how to prevent dog bites

How To Teach Kids To Respect Dogs

In the same way we teach kids to respect fellow people, we must teach them to respect dogs. Show children how to pet a dog, where to touch her, and most importantly, when (not when she’s sleeping or eating).

Kids often mimic the behaviors they engage in, so if a guardian roughhouses or tickles them, they may do the same thing to a dog. Most dogs aren’t fond of kids roughing them up or pinching and poking at their skin and fur.

Some dogs get overstimulated and hyper around groups of children who run or play together. Dogs may play chase and even nip at kids during these times. If this happens, dogs should be separated from the kids, and the playing should cease for the time being.

The majority of dogs don’t like to be hugged. Imagine you are walking down the street or in a store, and a stranger suddenly approaches you and lands a big hug around your body. You will certainly feel awkward having your personal space invaded. Dogs are the same way.

dog with a children's book
Dexter is ready to hear Harley’s Story

Teach Kids About Dogs With Medical Issues

We all get older, and that goes for the family dog. At some point, all dogs will experience medical issues in their lives. It may start with a spay or neuter operation, which is a great time to talk to children about being gentle and respectful with dogs.

As dogs age, their bodies begin to show wear and break down much like people. It can be difficult to explain to children why dogs can’t play as much, run as far, or do as many things as they did in the past. Family nurse practitioner, dog and human mom, and author Denise Gruzensky recently wrote a wonderful children’s book on this topic.

Denise wrote “Not Like The Others: Harley’s Story: Having a Pet With Special Needs” so parents could read the book to their children. When her beloved rescue Terrier, Harley, is diagnosed with diabetes, Denise knew life would change.

In order to teach children respect for dogs and how to treat animals with special needs, she opened her heart and pen in this beautiful book. The illustrations are lovely, and I highly recommend this book for young children and kids of all ages.

Read Harley’s Story available in Kindle and paperback versions.

Kids love the book too, as eight-year-old Alina Brown has diabetes type 1 and related to Harley’s story. In her own words, little Alina shared:

It helped me understand that people and dogs can have diabetes, and that there are special things they must do to stay well, like checking blood sugars and eating healthy.

A. Brown
teaching respect for dogs to kids

Respect Begins With Education

Before you bring a dog into the home, know what breed or type of dog would be most suitable to your family. Terriers are small and may have less patience with children while Golden Retrievers may love the attention of respectful kids.

When kids learn to respect and value dogs early on, they learn right from wrong, dos and dont’s, and develop a love for animals. One of the most common issues for dog moms and dads is expecting dogs to automatically love and engage with kids. This isn’t always the case. There are also key ways to introduce a dog to a new baby.

A few things kids can do to show respect for dogs include:

  1. Read books to the family dog: When dogs are sleepy or after exercise, have kids read a book like Harley’s story to their pooch.
  2. Go for walks together: With an adult, show kids the right and wrong way to walk a dog and how and if to interact with other dogs.
  3. Play find the treat: One of my personal favorites, this game involves hiding treats around the house in an area where dogs cannot knock things over.
  4. Blow bubbles: Many dogs love to chase things, and many love to snap and chase bubbles from a bubble wand. Be sure to do this outside with supervision. Because we don’t want upset doggy tummies, I recommend dog-safe bubbles.
  5. Gentle pets: Teach kids the right way to pet a dog using gentle motion in the right places.

Safety and respect go hand in hand and paw in paw. Enforce good behavior with children around dogs and make sure everyone is clear on the rules.

How to teach kids respect for dogs

One Comment

  1. i wish every parent or person that has a child would read this. too many dogs are put down because they reacted to something a child did and bit them. then the parent sues, and the dog is put down, this has happened twice recently in nc. one parent left a baby with a dog, a dog she did not know, was not paying attention, and the dog killed the baby. the dog was put down. that is the parent’s fault, who leaves a baby with an unknown dog. my girls are just as sweet and gentle as they can be. however, when kids are running around, run up to them, put their fingers in their face, they get scared and growl. even if i tell the child not to do this, even tell the parent, they dont pay any attention.

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