Children and Dog

Dog safety tips for kids

Dogs are not always in the mood for play or interaction. There is a time and a place for play, petting or just sitting quietly and at other times the dog just wants to be left alone. Dogs communicate with body language and kids and parents can learn to read these subtle signs so that they know when the dog is asking to be left alone.

Most dogs are extremely tolerant, but if a dog is pushed too far by unwanted attention from kids or feels that the child is threatening him is some way he may feel he has no choice but to growl or snap.

A dog who licks his chops, yawns, suddenly begins to scratch or bite at himself, turns his head away, gets up and leaves or looks at you or the child with a half moon of white showing in his eye is telling you that he is anxious, unhappy and has had enough. These signs will precede the more well-recognised signs of a dog who is warning by growling, snarling, barking or snapping. Teach kids to recognise the signs of a happy dog (panting and wagging his tail) compared to a dog who is anxious or busy with something else (mouth closed and the other signs listed previously). Teach them to interact only with happy dogs and to leave a dog alone who is busy with something else or is showing signs of anxiety.

Safety tips

Here are some other tips from Dog gone Safe to help parents and pet parents keep kids safe around dogs:

The three most important things to teach your kids

  • Dogs don’t like hugs and kisses – Teach your kids not to hug or kiss a dog on the face. Hugging the family dog or face-to-face contact are common causes of bites to the face. Instead, teach kids to scratch the dog on the chest or the side of the neck.
  • Be a tree if a strange dog approaches – Teach kids to stand still, like a tree. Trees are boring and the dog will eventually go away. This works for strange dogs and anytime the family dog gets too frisky or becomes aggressive.
  • Never tease a dog – and never disturb a dog who’s sleeping, eating or protecting something.

The two most important things parents can do

    Supervise – Don’t assume your dog is good with kids. If a toddler must interact with your dog, you should have your hands on the dog too. Even if your dog is great with kids and has never bitten – why take a chance?

  • Train the dog – Take your dog to obedience classes where positive-reinforcement is used. Never pin, shake, choke, hold the dog down or roll the dog over to teach him a lesson. Dogs treated this way are likely to turn their aggression on weaker family members. Involve older children in training the family dog while supervising. Don’t allow children to punish the dog. Condition the dog to enjoy the presence and actions of children using positive experiences.

The three most important things pet parents can do

    Spay or neuter your dog – Neutered pets are calm, healthier and less likely to be aggressive. Neutering prevents unwanted dogs who may end up in shelters or in less than ideal conditions where they may grow up to be poorly socialised or aggressive.

  • Condition your dog for the world – Give your puppy lots of new positive experiences. Train using positive methods such as clicker training.
  • Supervise your dog – Supervise your dog at all times around children. Do not allow children to hug and kiss the dog. If visiting children are bothering your dog, put the dog away or send the children home.

Safe games for kids and dogs

Showing your children how to interact safely, playfully and positively with your puppy or dog not only strengthens the bond between them, but also enhances the training process by teaching the dog to respond to commands. Here are some fun and simple training games your children and dog can enjoy together.

Hide and seek: This activity is a hit with both two- and four-footed family members. Have one child distract the dog, while the other hides and calls for him. At first, instruct your kids to hide in easy places so the dog can’t go wrong. When the hider is found, he gives the dog a treat. Once the dog gets the hang of the game, the hider can make it more challenging by going out of sight or into another room while the other child encourages the dog to “go find Jordan!” This game exercises the dog and is also mentally stimulating.

Fetch: This is another good game that gives the dog exercise and is fun for kids. It is important, however, that the dog is taught to give back the fetched object and to step back and wait for the next throw. If the dog tries to engage in a game of tug of war, or refuses to give up the object, the kids should end the game and ignore the dog for awhile. “Any game that pits the strength or speed of the dog against those of the child could lead to over-excitement and even a biting accident,” says canine behaviour consultant Teresa Lewin of Milton K9 Obedience in Milton. “Adult supervision and proper training are essential.”

Stay inside the rope: Clicker training is the best way for kids to get involved with training, and this game gives them a good opportunity to try it. Place a circle of rope on the floor and give each child a clicker and some small dog treats (the kids can make a clicking sound with their tongues if no clickers are available). Toss a treat into the centre of the circle to get started. When the dog has eaten the treat, click before she steps outside the rope and toss another treat into the circle. The goal is to click and reward as often as possible while the dog has all four paws inside the rope circle. Once the dog has the idea that the place to be is inside the rope, the children can start moving around the room, still clicking and tossing treats into the circle. Play this in various locations and eventually the dog will learn to go and lie within the rope. You can then take the rope into any situation where you need to establish a boundary for the dog.

Keep it positive: Variations on this method can be used to teach the dog to prefer a certain room in the house, lie on a mat or in a crate, shake a paw, jump over a stick or just about anything else you and your kids can think up. Just remember to teach your kids never to scold or use physical force. The word ‘No’ is never used, and there is no need to try to ‘dominate’ the dog. If the dog does the wrong thing, the kids ignore him; if he responds correctly, he receives a treat reward.

Dogs and kids can be great together. It is the parent’s and pet parent’s responsibility to ensure that the needs of both are met and that happy interactions are the norm between kids and dogs.

(Joan Orr and Teresa Lewin are co-founders of Doggone Safe, a non-profit organisation dedicated to dog bite prevention through education and dog bite victim support ( They are also the creators of the Doggone Crazy! board game, Clicker Puppy dog training DVD, the Be a Tree teacher kit and several online courses (

Pooches: your kid’s best tutor..

Pooches: your kid’s best tutor -Tailwaggers can enhance your kid’s reading ability
In therapeutic and educational settings, pets (especially dogs) are decisively a positive and helpful influence. They relieve anger and depression, they are fun and engaging, and they are marvelous catalysts at helping people break through when they are stuck. They inspire them to WANT to participate in their vital therapies, and to have fun while doing so. Here’s how dogs help children with reading disabilities.

The establishment…

Intermountain Therapy Animals was founded in September 1993 by three women who came early to the

Children and Dog


realisation of how interaction with animals could benefit people in therapeutic settings. Their dogs happened to be a German Shepherd, a Doberman and a Rottweiler breeds which are often frightening to some people. This was proof that ANY breed can be a therapy dog if they have the right temperament, a great relationship with their owners, and excellent skills. Founders of R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs), they have helped many kids with reading disabilities.

The R.E.A.D. programme…

“R.E.A.D. was the inspiration of one of our board members – Sandi Martin who wanted to figure out a way to combine her greatest loves – dogs and books. She was a nurse and had seen first-hand the benefits of animals in hospitals. She asked me if I thought those benefits would translate to the reading environment, and – voila! It seemed like an obvious no-brainer of an idea once it was spoken!,” told Kathy Klotz, Executive Director, Intermountain Therapy Animals.

“We started a four-week pilot programme at the Salt Lake City main library in Utah in November 2009 and it was so wildly successful. It has continued at the library and several Salt Lake branches ever since,” she added.

How R.E.A.D. helps…

R.E.A.D. generally focuses on children aged five to eight, to help establish a love of reading and books in that crucial, formative period when they must LEARN TO READ so they can READ TO LEARN for the rest of their lives. Children who are not able to read at proper level when they turn nine almost never catch up, and for the rest of their lives they are behind in education, earnings, socio-economic status, and general success in their lives. “We think it’s so important to help turn today’s children into excited, avid readers at those early ages. In the US, almost 68 percent of children are significantly behind, not reading adequately at age of nine,” told Kathy as a matter of fact.

“We started our elementary school version of the programme in January of 2000. In November of 2009 we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the programme and enjoyed receiving a resolution from the United States Senate in Washington, declaring November 14 as National Reading Education Assistance Dogs Day. The programme has spread throughout the world, including the entire United States, four provinces in Canada, around the UK, and even Spain, Italy and elsewhere. We are now heading for the 12th anniversary of the programme (in November 2011), and the positive results and reactions continue to pour in,” she added proudly.

How dogs help…

The animals are non-judgmental, non-critical and great listeners. They never pressure a child to perform. They get kids away from the frightening pressure of their peers. A R.E.A.D. animal is considered a primary or intrinsic motivator. In other words, they make the actual experience of reading feel good, and be rewarding, so they can’t wait to come back and feel so good again. It’s different from a secondary motivator, like getting an unrelated reward (like a coupon for a free pizza) for reading a certain number of books or whatever.

“Children tell us things like – He won’t go tell my friends I’m stupid if I make a mistake. He never tells me to hurry up like my mom does. Well, I sometimes stutter and he won’t laugh at me when that happens,” told Kathy. “Besides, reading to a dog gives them the opportunity to be the teacher or tutor – they know more than the dog, and they fully believe they are helping him enjoy hearing their stories. They absolutely blossom with pride and confidence when they get to do this – we kept noticing, in all the hundreds of photos people would send us – that kids ALWAYS turn the book so that the dog can see the pictures. They want to make sure the dog understands.”

The mission…

“Our overall purpose/mission is to enhance quality of life through the power of the human-animal bond. We focus on bringing animals into healthcare and educational facilities, like hospitals, senior care centers, rehab facilities, prisons and residential care settings, and then (with R.E.A.D.) schools and libraries. We seldom visit individually in private homes, and we do not maintain a facility where clients come to us. At this point, we have more than 300 active teams, visiting more than 100 facilities in four states (Utah, Nevada, Montana and Idaho),” concluded Kathy proudly.

(Kathy Klotz is Executive Director of Intermountain Therapy Animals and R.E.A.D., Utah).

Children and Dog

Rainy Day activities for kids and dogs

“It’s raining, it’s pouring, everything is boring!” Rainy days with stir-crazy kids and dogs can try your sanity. When your kids wail that there’s nothing fun to do, have them try some of these simple games with the family dog.

Hansel & Gretel Trails: This is a really basic activity, but kids love it! Give your children a small bowl of treats

Children and Dog

Rohan and Coco

and tell them to create a trail for the dog to follow. Keep the dog near you while the kids put a treat every 2 to 4 feet. When they have laid out the entire path, have them come back and tell the dog to sit before releasing the dog to follow the trail. They’ll follow along behind the dog cheering for each successful find.

Commando Crawl (for mid-sized dogs): Have the kids lay a trail of treats running under your coffee table from one end to the other. Teach the dog to belly-crawl across the floor to get the treats.

Dog Bowling: Arrange empty plastic two-liter bottles in a bowling triangle in the hallway and have the kids take turns calling the dog for a treat. Whoever gets the dog to topple the most pins as he races down the hall wins.

Tiny Teeter-Totter: Lay a piece of plywood on the floor. Have the kids give the dog treats for stepping on the board. Once the dog is not at all concerned about walking on the board, lay the board across a broom to make a two-inch high teeter-totter. Keep rewarding the dog for walking over the board. Remind the kids to keep their fingers away from the board while the dog is on it!

Rainy Day Come: Give each child a small cup of dog treats. Tell one child to go “hide” in the kitchen. At first the child won’t really hide, she’ll just stand in the center of the kitchen and call the dog. While the dog is trotting toward the kitchen, send another child to the dining room.

After the first child has had the dog sit to get a treat, the child in the dining room can call the dog . . . and while the dog is coming to the second child, the first child will head to the living room. When it’s her turn to call again, she’ll call and the dog will head for the kitchen only to find that she’s not there! While the dog looks for the first child, the second chooses a new spot.

As your dog gets better at this game, the kids can make it more challenging by standing behind doors or sitting in unusual places. The game is over when the kids are out of treats; then everyone can head to the kitchen for a cookie break.

Remember to use lots of treats to make these games as much fun for the dog as for the kids. The idea is to offer the children simple training opportunities in fun, easy-to-implement ways.

Don’t allow anyone to push or pull the dog to get him to do something. If the dog seems confused or resistant, look for ways to make the challenges easier. Watch for any signs of frustration—on either the kids’ or dog’s part—and step in right away to help.

Soon your kids will be hoping it rains more often.

(Colleen Pelar, CPDT, CDBC, is the author of Living with Kids and Dogs . . . Without Losing Your Mind. Since 1991, Colleen has been the go-to person for parents trying to navigate kid-and-dog issues. Because a knowledgeable adult can improve every interaction between a child and a dog, Colleen is committed to educating parents, children, and dog owners on kid-and-dog relationships.For more information, visit

Smart dogs for smart kids

Your dog is good for your kid for more reasons than you can think. Let’s see how.

Ever seen the twinkle in your child’s eyes when he sees a pup or a dog he likes? He wants to go close to him

Children and Dog

Smart dogs for smart kids

pet him and more often than not, would like to take him home. A pooch will give him a wealth of knowledge for day-to-day life.

We all know dog teaches our children emotions like compassion, responsibility and community awareness towards strays, besides giving them emotional support in times of need. They help children in more ways than we think.

Let’s see how our pooches help our kids have a more enriching life…

The tiny tots (0-2 years): Babies learn through senses – by seeing, hearing and touching. Their cognitive development improves when they are living with a pooch. They associate with them as friends and love to play with them, looking for them when they sit under the table or bed. Their motor skills improve as the pooches keep them on their toes.

The preschoolers (2-3 years): This is the age of learning – kids learn that they are responsible for their pet’s needs and start empathising with them.

The school-goers (3-14 years): When a child starts going to school, he faces the real world – classmates, teachers, etc. Sometimes, they are not able to tell everything to their parents – they start confiding in their pets as they are aware of their unconditional love and care. They become responsible towards their pets – taking care of their daily needs. Sometimes, even the loss of a pet can teach them the hard facts of life.

Few scientific facts…

Even science has proved that pooches enrich children’s lives. Let’s see how:

Dogs encourage reading habits in children: A lot of children are not comfortable reading aloud. By having a canine as an audience, children learn to read. They know that dogs will not judge them for their reading skills and they feel they are teaching it to the pooch, thus building their confidence in the long run. This concept was first used by a nurse named Martin, who is now a board member of Utah’s nonprofit Intermountain Therapy Animals, which runs the R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) programme.

Dogs make children active and hence less obese: According to a research from St. Geroge’s University of London, children who have dogs at home are more active than those without dogs, thus helping them fight obesity, a rising issue of concern for parents.

Dogs help children with special needs: According to a new Université de Montreal study, specifically trained service dogs can help reduce anxiety and enhance socialisation skills of children suffering with Autism Syndrome Disorders (ASDs).

Health benefits: The researchers in Stanford University and the University of California, United States have found that pets can significantly reduce the risk of cancer, improve cardiovascular function, and enhance human immunity.

Towards safe dog-child interactions…

But it is important to teach children how to interact with dogs to prevent mishaps like dog bites, etc. Always have kids and dogs in supervision. Don’t let your child reach for an unknown dog. Teach them not to bother them while they are eating or sleeping. Never let your child bully them – teach them where your dog likes to be touched and when he needs to be left alone. Also, teach them the basic body language of a dog.

Teaching kids the importance of Hygiene and washing hands is a must. Most importantly, teach your child to respect the family pooch.

Let’s help our kids have a more fulfilling life with the love of a pooch!