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Abbotsford Animal Hospital

Keeping Children Safe Around Dogs

child with dog in grass

There are many times children will interact with dogs, whether you have a dog at home, with friends and family or strangers on the street; it is important for children to know about how to safely interact with dogs.

Dogs in your home

Setting house rules. Make a list of guidelines for everyone to follow.

  • Use your commands.

    *practice commands with your children, be consistent.

  • Leave the dog alone when they go to their safe place.

    *Have a spot where your dog can go to escape when feeling overwhelmed.

Dogs that belong to family or friends.

Get to know the dog. Like people, not all dogs are alike and what some dogs may be comfortable with, others may not. Children should always ask the owner about the pet before doing a new activity with them, such as catch or tug-o-war.

Dogs on the street, being walked by owners.

The #1 rule: Always ask the owner if it is ok to go near/touch their dog. Children of all ages should be told to NEVER touch a pet without consent from an adult. Not only is this for safety against bites, but animals can be carriers of parasites and diseases and a friendly animal does not always mean a safe animal.

Dogs on the street, WITHOUT owners.

A common phrase taught is “Tall like a tree” or “Small like a rock”.

“Tall like a tree” Have your child practice standing still, hands at their side and eye closed (to easily avoid eye contact).

“Small like a rock” Children can also try curling up in a ball (fetus position).

​These positions help make children look less appealing to dogs. Dogs will be less likely to chase them or feel intimidated by them if they are not running or moving.

Signs that a dog may be uncomfortable.

Older children should be aware of basic dog behaviour and how to tell if a dog is becoming uncomfortable. If a child is too young to recognize behaviour, they are too young to be left with dogs alone.

  • The hair on their back rising (sticking up)

    This may happen when a dog feels frightened or threatened.

  • Tail pointing straight up.

    While different dogs have different size and lengths of tails , they will stand rigid and tense to show that they are uncomfortable

  • Panting

    While dogs may start panting after lots of activity, it can also be a sign that a dog is uncomfortable or stressed.

  • Yawning

    When a dog has become stressed, yawning can be a signal before biting. It is important to give them space and let them relax.

  • Barking

    Dogs bark for many reasons but it is best if you are not familiar with the dog, back away and wait for an adult.

  • Growling

    A dog's growl can sometimes be the last second warning before they bite. Dogs might make nice grunting noises while scratching the right spot but if you are not familiar with the dog, it is best to leave them alone and check with the owner.

  • Showing their Teeth

    Don’t mistake this as a smile, a dog lifting their gums to show teeth is a warning to back off.

Most importantly, children need to know that dogs are animals and can be unpredictable. Dogs may tolerate certain behaviour for a short time but when the signs that they are uncomfortable are not recognized, it can often lead to bites.

If you have any questions or concerns, you can always visit or call us – we want to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.​

Abbotsford Animal Hospital - Caring for Pets for People in York Region, Aurora, Newmarket, King City, Richmond Hill and the GTA.

Gloria Fantegrossi

Customer Care Team Member of Abbotsford Animal Hospital specializing in social media.