Dogs and kids to go together like peanut butter and jelly. The relationship seems natural, but it works best when both human and canine can be gentle and listen to instruction. If a child can respect your dog's instincts, and your pet can tolerate some enthusiastic attention, both sides will benefit from a puppy love-fest.
Most dogs are very social, but it's important for kids to be cautious when meeting a new pup. The best way for a child to greet your dog is to slowly approach and ask permission before petting. If your dog is friendly, the child can gently extend a closed hand for your pup to sniff. After that, the best place for the child to stroke your pet is on his chest or under the chin, according to the American Kennel Club. Children should never try to pet a dog that is tied up, in a car or in a fenced yard.
Dogs are smart, but they can't read minds. Sometimes your dog can misinterpret a child's actions, so it's important to give signals he understand, and to be sensitive to his signals. For example, a child shouldn't look your dog straight in the eye at first. Staring straight into his face can seem like a challenge and your dog may think it's aggressive. If your dog shows the whites of his eyes, he is giving a warning. If he growls, or snaps, it may be his final warning before biting.
Even the sweetest family dog can become aggressive if he thinks he needs to defend his belongings. Your dog may bite a child who tries to take away a favorite toy or treat. Tell children that your pup needs space when eating, drinking or chewing a bone. To ensure safety, children should never approach or try to touch a dog who is enjoying a meal or gnawing a toy.
Walk, Don't Run
A running, screaming child can trigger a predatory response in your dog. He may try to chase the runner, and could jump on her, knock her down and even bite. If you introduce your puppy to children early, in calm, positive settings, he will be better socialized. You should never let your dog chase children, even in play, according to the ASPCA.
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Some dogs startle easily. Children should never approach or try to touch your sleeping dog. If he wakes suddenly, his natural instinct is to defend himself and he may accidentally snap at the child. Your dog may also startle if approached from behind or by sudden movements. Children should approach your dog slowly from the front or side for any interaction.
The most playful interaction can sometimes go too far. Even the gentlest dog can become overexcited and knock over a small child. You should always oversee interactions between your dog and any child to make sure that play is appropriate. If either party shows signs of aggression, stop the play. If you can't supervise, move your dog to a separate room, the yard or his crate and instruct the child to leave the dog alone. To avoid being nipped, a child should never put her fingers through the bars of a dog's crate.
Based in Los Angeles, Mary Helen Berg has been writing about pets, travel, families and parenting since 1989. Her work has appeared in publications such as "The Los Angeles Times" and "Newsweek." Berg holds a Master of Science from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.