Minding Your Paw’s & Q’s: Children and Pet Etiquette

Minding Your Paw’s & Q’s: Children and Pet Etiquette

Children are often curious and very inexperienced when it comes to good pet etiquette. They’re always eager to interact even with dogs they aren’t familiar with. 

Puppies are equally curious and eager to mingle with both adults and children alike. Fortunately, most adults are well versed in pet etiquette and can mingle with both pets and adult dogs with ease. Children, however, need to be taught about pet etiquette. 

But what is the best way to go about teaching children pet etiquette so as to facilitate proper child-dog-interaction?


Teaching Dogs Pet Etiquette

Puppies require some level of socialisation from the get-go. The easiest way to do this is to introduce them to family and friends from day one. Actually, it doesn’t take that long to get a puppy to learn to interact in a friendly manner.

Unfortunately, pet safety when interacting with newborns is a whole new ballgame. That’s because a new baby means a big change on many levels, both for you and your dog. And just like us, when their lifestyle and routine are altered, dogs experience anxiety

You can minimise their stress by gradually getting them to adapt to these changes in advance. Here are some simple steps you can follow to help your dog to slowly adjust to the many new experiences and changes ahead.

1. New Smells                 

When you bring a new baby home, your dog will encounter new smells and sounds. She may find them upsetting, particularly if she didn’t spend time with children as a pup. 

Babies can seem pretty bizarre, frightening even, to dogs who haven’t previously spent time with them. They smell different, don’t look like the grown-up humans they are used to, and definitely move in a strange way. Therefore, it’s a good idea to introduce them to as many baby-like sights and smells as possible to prepare them for those aspects of the baby.

One of the best ways could be introducing some baby products so that your dog can associate them with familiar people. Where possible, borrow baby blankets or clothes with a baby smell to get them used to that smell.

2. New Sounds

Children may make loud, screeching noises that your dog might find strange, causing them to become frightened or agitated on hearing the baby cry. To help familiarise your dog to these sounds, play them a recording of realistic crying baby noises frequently. Whenever the recording is playing, give your fur baby plenty of attention and treats. Turn the recording off after about 5 minutes, and do not give your dog any attention for the next half hour or so. 

If you do this several times a day, your furry friend will learn to associate baby sounds with attention and treats instead of becoming upset or afraid when she hears the baby cry.

3. Routine Changes

Once your bundle of joy arrives, your daily routine will be altered drastically. That means that your dog’s schedule will also change. With this in mind, begin to slowly transition to your predicted new schedule. 

Because life with a new baby can be hectic, sticking to the same time you’ve always done things, like walking the dog, might prove to be impossible. It may help to teach your dog pet etiquette if you prepare them for a slightly less consistent schedule before the baby comes home. 

Slowly try varying mealtimes, play times, dog walking times and other routine activities to prepare them for this inevitability. 

4. Divided Attention

Out of necessity, your dog will most likely get less of your attention and time. This can be difficult especially if your fur baby has been the “only child”. To make things transition as smoothly as possible, it’s important to take time to prepare your pet for the new addition to the family. 

Because chances are very high that you will nap when the baby sleeps, start taking naps occasionally prior to the baby’s arrival. However hard it might be in the beginning, avoid lavishing your fur baby with too much extra attention. 

For good pet etiquette and better child-pet-interaction, it’s best to make this change gradually in the weeks before your baby’s due date. This way, your fur baby doesn’t feel set up for a big let down once the baby comes home and takes all your attention away from them. 

Instead, gradually reduce attention and shorten cuddle and play sessions with your dog. It helps to schedule your sessions so that your dog does not expect attention anytime.

5. Nap and Quiet Time

Teach your dog how to spend quiet time in your baby’s room with you when you’re rocking her to sleep or nursing. Start by giving your pet a new food puzzle or chew toy to keep them occupied. 

After the baby finally comes home, occasionally toss dog treats to your pet while the baby is lying on their bed. This will make your fur buddy happy to be around your baby while simultaneously training them to stay put during quiet time.

Teaching Children Pet Etiquette

Teaching your children proper pet etiquette is crucial for pet safety and healthy child-dog-interaction. 

As a dog parent, you can facilitate easier interactions between your child and fur baby by teaching them how to make their relations fun, healthy and rewarding for both of them. 

But how do you teach children pet etiquette? 

Here are some tips:

1. Teach Pet Etiquette by Example

One of the best ways to teach children about interacting with animals in general is by example. Children watch and learn from us. They mimic our behaviour and our actions. Therefore, you need to set a good example by monitoring your own pet etiquette. 

2. Set Rules

For pet safety and healthy children-dog-interaction, there are rules that you can teach your child from an early age. While seemingly obvious to adults, it is important to teach your child these basic rules and their importance.

Some of these basic rules include:

  • Not pulling your dog’s ears or tail
  • Not mounting on or squeezing your dog
  • Not getting to your dog’s face level in the face of a pet. 
  • Not using excessive excitement or volume.

These actions might appear harmless to the child. Nevertheless, they can make the dog feel threatened, stressed and anxious, making them lash out and potentially cause serious harm.

3. Teach When Not to Approach


This is probably one of the most important lessons you can teach your child about pet etiquette. Pet safety requires you to teach your child to read a dog’s body language so as not to interact with a dog that seems aggressive or fearful. 

4. Supervise Interactions

Always supervise interactions between your pet and child. This allows you to correct any behaviour that may make your dog feel agitated or threatened. If this happens, remind your child how to interact with your dog in a calm and safe manner.

5. Always Seek Permission

Most children get excited on seeing dogs and innocently charge towards them to pet them. However, you should teach your child to always ask for permission before approaching a dog. That way, they learn that they require permission from both you and the pet’s owner before approaching a strange dog. 

They should also learn to never approach a strange dog without an adult present.

6. Teach How Best To Pet a Dog

Another tip for children and pet etiquette that is crucial for both child and pet safety is showing your child the best way to approach a dog. Remind them that they should use a soft voice and stay calm so that the dog doesn’t feel threatened. 

Just as is the case with adults, holding out their hand and giving the dog a chance to sniff them is always a great way to start. It helps the dog build trust and become comfortable. 

Show your child the best places to pet the dog – the chest or under their chin. If the dog warms up and responds in a friendly and positive manner, the petting can progress to their neck and back. It should ideally be in the direction of the fur. 

Remember to keep a close eye for any signs of discomfort, fear or aggression in the dog.

7. Teach them How to Help

There are countless ways that you can teach your child to help pets. Doing so teaches them to be responsible and caring. Small projects, like refilling your dog’s water bowl or helping you dry the dog after a bath, are great places to start. 

You can also carry them along when making a visit to local dog shelters to donate food and supplies. 

8. Praise Them for Being Nice

Reinforce good behaviour by giving your child praise when they are patient, kind and gentle with dogs. This will make the child-dog-interaction a positive experience for them. It will make them feel confident and safe around dogs and encourage good pet etiquette. 


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