Teaching Your Dog to Like Children

teaching your dog to like children

Quick Tip - Teaching Your Dog to Like Children

This is one of those common questions that sometimes sends chills up my spine.

Everyone wants a dog that loves kids; but unfortunately, not all dogs do love nor will even safely accept children.

The Child

The child, in my opinion, is the most crucial element in this kind of training.

Children need to be calm and respectful of dogs.

Children should not be left alone with dogs, not once, not for a second.

I remember being a very small child and trying to ride our neighbor’s Chesapeake Bay Retriever, “Max” whenever my parents or his owners weren’t directly in sight.

teaching your dog to like childrenEven as a tiny kid, I knew that neither my mother nor his owners would probably appreciate my behavior.  Yet, I didn’t realize it was because I could have been mauled or killed if the dog didn’t accept my small frame on his back.

Face it, kids do things they know they shouldn’t.

Kids don’t realize the danger they often put themselves in on a regular basis.

Good parenting and being super diligent is the safest way to deal with children and dogs.  If I can’t be with them both, one or the other is coming with me wherever I am going.

For instance, if I have a new dog around my young step kids and I have to use the bathroom, the puppy is coming with me or going in his crate or outside behind a locked door.

I once saw an article saying there is no way a parent could be around all of the time… but I have to tell you, I disagree.  As a parent it is my job to make sure that my child is safe.

If a dog is hurt or scared it’s bite threshold is much lower.

And it is important to understand that all dogs will bite under the right circumstances or the perfect storm.

Children should be taught to respect dogs and not hug them, bother them while they are eating or play rough with them!

The Dog

Typically the best way to teach your puppy to like children is to start young.

It is much more likely that you can socialize a young dog or puppy to and with GOOD children than expecting an adult dog to change its behavior with children.

Again, remember that a bad experience with children at a young age can lead a puppy to dislike all children.

So it is imperative that children and puppies be monitored and that appropriate behavior is rewarded.

No chasing, biting, or rough behavior should be tolerated.

And, rewards can be used often to reward the dog for being calm and mindful of children in the environment.

The two must be consciously taught how to appropriately interact.

Remember, they both want to play too rough with each other and this may be cute at first but can lead to behaviors that can be dangerous with a full grown adult dog.

teaching your dog to like childrenFor instance: playing chase and letting the puppy bite the running child may be cute when the puppy is 8 weeks.  This exact scenario may lead to the dog’s euthanasia when the dog is 100 + pounds.

If it wouldn’t be cute for a 100 pound Rottweiler to do; don’t allow your puppy or child to engage in the behavior.

Please, please, please reward the dog for being calm or even ignoring the children and following you around the home.

If I get up, at my house, my dogs follow.  My dogs are always with me and prefer my company, which makes living with children a lot easier for me.

Young Dogs or Dogs Who Grew up Successfully with Kids

I believe that the best situation when trying to find a dog who will fit in a family with young kids is finding a puppy or taking on an older dog who knowingly had and loved children.

Although it is possible to take an adult dog with unknown history with children, it is a bit dangerous.


There are dogs out there that simply don’t like children.

Children move too fast (often like prey).teaching your dog to like children

They scream (often like prey).

They are too rough.

And, their general behaviors are nothing like adult humans.

And, whereas I would like to tell you that you can take an adult dog and successfully train it to love children, the truth is that you often can’t or it is not safe to try.

In these situations, it is important to teach the dog some form of tolerance and obedience socialization with children.

I Would Never

I would never suggest you adopt a dog from a local shelter and then run down to the nearest elementary school to socialize your dog and hope for the best.

Instead, I would suggest that you work on a firm foundation of obedience and teach the dog respectful behavior around children.

Sitting or lying down and even ignoring children can be appropriate behavior.

And, if you have a dog that has aggressive tendencies toward children.  I would recommend our aggression course and a basket muzzle to ensure that the dog and children are safe when they are within the same vicinity of one another.

Remember, sociability doesn’t mean the dog has to play with the subject, it simply means that he has to be under control when he is near the subject or trigger.


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  2. I am completely agree with you for the adult dogs, but if you raised child and puppy together probably at some point it’s ok to leave them alone ?


    Minette Reply:

    NO, it is not worth the risk. I teach my dogs to stay with me so I am always there to monitor interaction.


  3. Thank you Minette,
    how about small dog like a Chihuahua ?


  4. Sally Strachan says:

    I completely agree with you regarding socialising whilst young. We did this with our German Shepherd pup, Sienna, and she was great around children, she loved them and they loved her. That was until we were not there for a period and my step-daughter’s child was clearly left alone with the pup. I have no idea what happened but my pup went from loving to being terrified of all children except my older grand daughter. Can we come back from that do you think?
    Our other, younger dog has not been left with them for any time at all and adores all children, especially the youngster who “damaged” Sienna.


    Minette Reply:

    Coming back from something like that takes a lot of time and work and caution.


  5. Karen McLeod says:

    I have a 8 month old standard poodle puppy and an 11yo grandson that has Aspberger’s. The puppy, Jamie, gets so excited around kids and other animals that come into his area that he just doesn’t want to listen to any commands. He has finished level 1 of obedience and started level 2. Since the time for his class is in Tuesday mornings and he is the only one in the class it is one on one. He knows the basics hand and voice commands. I have been talking him to Petco on the weekends so he gets exposure to kids and other animals in a safe environment. His trainer is usually there. My grandson is very excitable when Jamie is jumping and barking which excites each one even more. I don’t know what to do to to settle him down. Jamie is supposed to be my emotional support dog. Help!


    Minette Reply:

    He needs more physical exercise and more strict obedience. Get over excited lose a privilege and do a down stay somewhere away from the people of the house. Excitement often builds on itself and this is unacceptable with a child with special needs.


  6. Katie (& Lucy) says:

    I have a year old boxer that a friend with children helped me watch during the day when she was 2 months to 5 months old.

    My boxer has always been really great with children, like you encouraged in the article, I think as a consequence of all this early interaction.

    Whenever we are at the off leash dog park, she runs away from me whenever children are near. She usually immediately drops her ball in front of a child who then will throw it. The other day, though, she ran over to a child, dropped her ball for the child, and allowed him to pet her. But when the child did not throw her ball, she barked at the child (more howling-ish than her aggressive bark) but nonetheless scared the child.

    Is there something I should have done or should be doing to help with this behavior?

    I’m in education and I’ve been in training with my dog to start volunteering as a therapy dog, particularly with children. I thought she would be good with children because she seems naturally inclined to follow children and enjoys being with them, but I know the boxer breed can be overprotective if not trained properly.


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