Dogs and Children

Dogs and children are a great combination and often become best buddies. But this doesn’t always happen by sheer magic. The dog has to be taught how to behave around children (the early training you do will ensure this) and children have to learn how to behave around dogs. It’s true some dogs are more friendly and safe with children than others.

But even they can bite if provoked. Did you know the majority of dog bites to children come from their own dogs, or dogs they know well? This means most bites can be prevented if people are well informed, and do the right things.

Many people mistakenly believe their dogs must put up with everything they do to them, no matter how well trained they are – pulling the tail, hugging, pinching the ears, pulling the hair, grabbing them while they sleep, patting the head hard, picking them up by the paws, and so on. Wrong! Just as you dislike and refuse to have certain things done to you, so does your dog. Forcing him to accept what he hates can result in aggression and biting.

dogs training and children

You’re no less in control of your dog if you avoid doing things he dislikes. In fact, you have better control if you respect him and ask other people to do the same; this includes children. That’s the first step towards avoiding bites.

And a golden rule is never to leave a child (toddlers, and up to at least twelve-year-old children) alone with your dog, or any dog, no matter how much you trust him. This isn’t because he’ll suddenly turn vicious, or dislikes children, but because children are impulsive and tend to do things dogs don’t appreciate – pulling the hair, for example.

Remember, dogs can’t speak and can only offer a variety of body movements and noises to indicate their discomfort. Adults can and should learn to recognise these signals; small children and toddlers are unlikely to – and in any case are more interested in playing. A child may, therefore, not provoke a dog on purpose, but still get bitten because he doesn’t pick up the signals.

Let’s look at an example of a dog biting out of the blue:

The dog is relaxing on a sofa – his favourite spot – wanting to be left alone. A two-year-old child approaches him. The dog licks his lips and turns his head away. The child keeps approaching, looking for the dog’s attention. At this point, the misunderstanding between dog and child has begun – lip-licking and turning the head away are subtle signals that mean ‘go away’.

The child is acting as humans do – wanting eye contact – by approaching and being nice. As the child continues to approach, the dog may yawn, curve his body away from the child or lean hard into the sofa. The dog is feeling crowded, yet the child still moves in to hug or kiss him. The dog growls, bares his teeth, and bites the child on the face – all in a matter of seconds.

Was the bite ‘out of the blue’? No. The dog gave all the signals other dogs would have recognised. The child, however, communicated like a human – eye contact, hugging, and kissing. From the dog’s point of view, the child didn’t respond properly to his subtle warnings, so he made the message clearer, by biting. All the dog wanted was to be left alone; all the child wanted was to cuddle up to the dog.

The bite happened because of a misunderstanding: their minds couldn’t meet. It could only have been prevented by an adult being there to ensure the problem didn’t arise in the first place.

Dog Warning Signals

What subtle signals does your dog give, that you must pay attention to?

1. Getting up and moving away from the child.
2. Turning his head, to avoid eye contact.
3. Yawning while the child approaches or starts playing with him.
4. Suddenly scratching himself or licking his lips.
5. Rolling his eyes to the side, exposing the white part.
6. If lying on a sofa, he may lean hard against it, or curve his body away from the child.

A dog giving these signals might not bite. But it’s better to be safe than sorry, and end the encounter when you see them.

When a Dog May Bite

It’s also useful to know the common situations where a dog is more likely to bite a child. These are:

  • when he’s guarding food, a toy, or other treasured item;
  • if he’s protecting the owner, or his house;
  • when he’s frightened and feels threatened if the child approaches too fast, bends over him, or hugs him;
  • when he may be wounded;
  • if the child may have hurt or scared him, by stepping on him, or pulling his hair, tail or ears;
  • if he doesn’t know how to control the strength of his bite and hurts the child when he offers him a food treat or toy;
  • when dog and child are playing a rough game and the dog becomes too excited;
  • small children running, screaming, and waving their arms may awaken the dog’s predatory instincts;
  • the dog may be sleeping, and be startled if the child touches him;
  • he may be resting, and want to be left alone.

These are situations when a dog may bite. I’m not saying he will. Even if he does, the bite may be no more than a nip. But why risk a nip or a serious bite, when there are safe and fun ways for children to play with dogs?

Dogs play with what they have: paws and teeth. If excited, they can hurt. Whatever games you let your dog play with a child, make sure they don’t include rough play – grabbing the dog’s muzzle, scruffing, or teasing.

Games of hide and seek are fun and safe. The child hides somewhere easy for the dog to find – behind doors, or around corners – and calls him. As soon as the dog finds the child, he gets rewarded with a couple of food treats.

The child must drop the food on the floor, for the dog to pick up – this avoids nipped fingertips if the dog is enthusiastic about getting food. Instead of food treats, the child can carry a wooden spoon with peanut butter. When the dog finds him, he gets rewarded by licking the peanut butter off the spoon. Make sure the child holds the spoon as low as he can, to avoid the dog jumping up at him.

Children tend to become excited when the dog finds them, and jump up while screaming ‘yeah!’. This animated reunion may be fine with self-confident and calm dogs, but it may startle nervous ones. Play it safe, by instructing the child to celebrate the reunion without making a big fuss.

Games of fetch are also fun. When the child is holding the toy he’s about to throw, hold the dog back by the collar. This avoids him jumping at the child to grab the toy, and accidentally biting him. Tell the child to throw the toy, and say ‘fetch’. You, the adult, encourage the dog to return with it. When he does, hold him by the collar, take the toy away, and hand it to the child. The child throws it again, and the game continues. When it’s over, put the toy away. This prevents the child from feeling tempted to play ‘fetch’ alone with the dog.

Instead of playing, the child may prefer to spend quiet time with the dog. Teach him to stroke the dog instead of patting his head (many dogs dislike head pats); to scratch the dog’s chest instead of pulling his hair; to hold him lightly instead of hugging, and finally, to always keep his face away from the dog’s mouth.

dogs training and children

Dogs and children can have something magical going on between them. Many children with speech challenges begin to talk with their dogs before talking with adults or other people. Children with disabilities that affect their movement can benefit from learning to brush their dogs. Some children, slow to develop speech and social skills, bloom with the combination of dog-assisted therapy and sign language. Shy, older children meet and make friends with other people while taking their dogs for walks.

What can you teach children to do, to preserve their trust in dogs, and remain safe? Offer them the following instructions:

1. Don’t approach unknown dogs, even if they are on a lead and with their owners. 
2. Don’t be left alone with a dog, whether it’s your dog or a friend’s.
3. Never look directly for more than a second or so into a dog’s eyes.
4. Never put your face close to any dog’s mouth.
5. Never try to take an object from a dog.
6. Don’t approach a dog that’s eating, or chewing on a toy or bone.
7. Never put your hand through a car window to touch a dog.
8. Never touch a dog through a gate or fence.
9. Never go into the garden of a dog, even if he looks friendly.
10. Never come between dogs that are fighting.
11. Never disturb a dog that’s sleeping, wounded, or caring for a litter of puppies.
12. Never reach out for a dog that’s trapped and frightened.
13. Learn to recognise signals dogs show when they’re about to bite: growling, showing teeth, hair standing, tail held straight up without moving, or wagging fast in a narrow arc.
14. Play with your dog only, and not other people’s dogs, unless their owner assures you it’s OK and that the dog is friendly with children.

Teach a child what to do if he’s threatened or attacked by dogs.

If a child is alone, and has to walk past a place where one or more dogs are loose and barking, he should choose another route – the dogs may be guarding territory, and attack if he approaches.

If a child is chased by a dog he must remain still, fold his arms, look down, and wait until the dog goes away – running and screaming may provoke an attack. 
If a child is attacked and knocked down by a dog, he must curl his body into a ball, and protect his face and neck with his arms and hands. Ask for help as soon as the dog is gone.

This may seem alarming, but the truth is: play it safe, and the likelihood of a bite is minimal.

Why You Need To ‘Speak’ Your Dog’s Body Language

Dogs ‘speak’ one language only, made up of many sounds and body signals. It’s easy for us to misunderstand what our dogs are trying to tell us, because sounds and body signals can have different meanings. So, we shouldn’t look only at the tail, or ears, or become worried just because the dog growled.

We need to look at the entire dog and what is happening before coming to a conclusion. For example, a tail wag is not always friendly, and a growl is not always a threat. Sometimes they might even sick from eating poisonous food, for instance, have you ever asked can dogs eat avocado?, or lettuce?, take a look at for an entire list.

The sounds and body language dogs use serve to show, amongst other things, friendliness, threat, aggression, play, and stress. And to understand the intended message, these sounds and signals need to be interpreted according to the situation the dog finds himself in.

Learn to interpret the most common sounds and signals dogs use and you’ll be able to act appropriately when your own puppy is interacting with another dog or person.

The most common sounds dogs make are: barking, growling, grunting, howling, clicking, screaming, tooth-snapping, yelping, whining and whimpering.


Screaming means distress, fear, or pain. Grunting and clicking mean relief from discomfort and are associated with physical contact, such as patting or stroking. Whining, yelping and whimpering are mainly distress or excitement sounds, commonly associated with greeting, pain, hunger, thirst, and seeking attention.

Tooth-snapping may be used in play situations, in warning or defence, in anticipation, or when the dog is generally excited. Many people ask why dogs howl, howling communicates acute distress and serves to reunite the dog with other dogs or people. Think of howling as a call.

The sounds dogs make have many meanings, but none cause as much confusion and misunderstanding as barking and growling. Barking is one of the sounds with the most meanings. It is associated with greeting, invitation to play, alarm, hunting, tracking, herding, alerting, defence, threat, asking for attention, asking for physical contact and distress. It also causes contradictory reactions in dog owners.

Barking aimed at intruders or potential burglars serves as a deterrent and, therefore, provides you with a sense of security. Constant barking at anything that moves or at any uncommon sound, on the other hand, can become intensely irritating, to both you and your neighbours.

Growling also has different and contradictory meanings. It’s associated with threat, defence, greeting, and play bouts. It is often misunderstood by the owner, as he tends to believe growling is always a threat or display of aggression.

For example, if during play the dog begins to growl, you may stop or even punish the dog for growling because you don’t know it’s natural for dogs to growl while playing. So, don’t immediately think a barking and/or growling dog is acting aggressively; it’s important to look at the rest of the dog’s body and at the context.

While communicating, dogs use their tails, ears, paws, qq hackles, lips, neck, entire head, face muscles, eyes, and mouth. They use their entire body. How these body parts are used will be discussed next, because it’s not just what body parts are moving that counts, but how they are moving.

For example, the way in which the tail is wagging may indicate a friendly approach, or a threat or intention to fight. The way in which the ears are positioned may indicate fear or playfulness. The way in which the lips are placed may indicate submission, or a threat. These are some of the reasons why – and I cannot stress this enough – it’s important to look at the whole dog. Never assume a tail wag means friendliness; never assume that showing teeth means aggression.

In short, dogs use their bodies to communicate different things. To understand them properly, it is paramount to understand what whole sets of body signals mean. Let’s begin by looking at what play looks like.


Play comprises a series of body signals that are used in friendly interactions. It is through play with the mother, brothers and sisters, that a puppy first learns to communicate. Play with the mother and littermates teaches the puppy when and how to use appropriate sounds and body signals to resolve minor squabbles and avoid fighting.

Continuing to play with other dogs, once the puppy joins his new family, helps him practice his communication skills. This is one of the reasons why it is important for your puppy to attend puppy classes or parties.

The play bow (front end lowered to the ground, with rear end up) is a typical gesture of play invitation and a signal the dog has no intention of acting aggressively. In fact, many play bouts begin with one or both dogs going into the play bow. Should play become too rough or distressing for one of the dogs, he will tend to use appeasement signals (signals that serve to calm down both dogs involved in play) or cut-off signals (signals that indicate the dog wants to end the play bout, but without fighting the other dog).

Dogs greet one another before beginning to play. Let’s say they are assessing one another for friendliness and gathering information about one another. They’re likely to begin by sniffing one another’s muzzle, maybe even lick one another’s lips or corners of the mouth, and then proceed to sniffing each other’s anal and genital areas. It is at this point, after they’ve gathered information, that they’ll decide to begin playing or go their separate ways. But it is also at this point that a fight may happen.

If you see that either your dog’s or the other dog’s hair begins to stand on end while they’re sniffing one another, the tail goes right up and becomes still, and one of the dogs stares hard at the other, be cautious and move away with your dog.

Top Five Illnesses That Will Likely Afflict Your Dog

When you’re a canine owner, you always want to make sure your puppy is healthy and happy. This means keeping your canine friend free of illnesses.

While most diseases are commonly seen in all dog breeds, you should understand that each dog has its own set of unique health problems.

In order to increase the chances of your pup being illness-free, it’s vitally important that you recognize what the most common ailments are for your dog breed. After all, you don’t want your dog to suffer from any of them needlessly.

Don’t forget you play a big role when it comes to keeping your dog healthy. Just like a newborn baby, a dog can’t tell you when it’s hurting or not feeling well. It is your duty to learn what the warning signs are and how to prevent them, so here’s the list.


Dogs are no different to humans when it comes to cancer. They suffer from both benign and malign cancers in their internal organs , bones and skin. Each cancer has its own growth rate, prognosys and symptoms. The majority of canine cancer can be treated but the must be found early on.

There are all kinds of warning signs to look for to tell if your dog is dealing with tumors or cancer. If your dog is 10yrs or older, there is a 50% increased chance that they will develop some kind of cancer, however, that doesn’t mean that a younger dog is all free of risk.

The symptoms your dog experience will vary depending on the type of cancer:

Lymphoma: lethargy, swollen lymp nodes, general illness, lack of appetite.

Mammary: swelling of lymphs or mammal glands, spayed dogs before the go into heat won’t suffer from this.

Stomach: swollen stomach, lethargy, weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting.

Testicular: lethargy and lumps.

In most cases there is no way to avoid cancer, however, there are ways to decrease the chances: don’t expose your dog to the sun for too long to reduce the risk of skin cancer and minimize the amount of processed foods given to your furry friend.