Avoiding the Big Bad Wolf...

Keeping kids and dogs safe together.

By C. Minniear, D.V.M. April 11, 2019

There are many situations where your child may come into contact with a new dog.  Whether introducing a new pet to your household, interacting with dogs at a vet hospital or a park, or meeting a dog in a friend’s home. A few simple precautions can keep children safe and dogs happy. 


Adopting a new four-legged family member is an exciting event for anyone, especially children.  Prior to adopting an animal, you should find out if they have ever lived with children.  You should also have your kids visit them at the shelter and observe the animal’s behavior.  If the animal is nervous or backing away from your child then it may not be suitable to live in a household with children.  Once a pet comes into a home, always make sure there is a safe and secure area for them such as a crate.  Crates are not forms of punishment; they are for training and for your dog’s safety. A crate is a place a dog can retreat and children can learn it’s a private spot where the dog is to be left alone.  Children and pets should never be left unsupervised.


When visiting a veterinary hospital, remember that most animals are under a lot of stress.  It’s best to admire dogs at the vet from across the room. Some owners may request that their animal not be touched, as they may not trust how they will react in a different environment.  When taking your own pet to the vet it’s important they are properly contained.  They should either be in a crate or on a short lead.  Avoid flexi leads, as they can be very dangerous. People and/or animals may get tangled, plus it doesn't allow the ability to properly restrain your pet.  Many kids want to help walk their dog into the hospital but remember they are not usually strong enough to have complete control. Pets leashes should be held by an adult.  


It is also good to remember some dogs are therapy animals or in training and are not allowed to be petted or distracted during training or work. Please look for any harness or badges on these animals that are in training. Inform children about what they are doing and teach them not to approach these animals.


Most animals are very sweet and loving but remember not all animals are used to small children.  Children easily grasp basic safety skills around animals, learning to always ask, “May I pet your dog?” before approaching an unknown animal makes for a charming and safe young person. 


Educate children that when encountering any dog, friendly or otherwise, it is important to still. Avoid running, screaming and/or waving arms about - this is the key to being safe. Children should let friendly dogs come to them to be petted.

Teach children that if they are approached by a loose dog they don’t know, being still like a tree is the best tactic. There are wonderful videos on youtube about dog safety and children. The station GOOD DOG IN A BOX is a good resource. Start with this video, an animation about being around dogs you know and this video about safety around dogs you don’t know.


Teaching children skills to prevent a problem is always the best tactic. I find my little ones enjoy becoming experts and sharing their dog safety knowledge with me. We have fun as a family learning how to avoid the big bad woof and enjoy poky little puppies!

Dr. Minnear has been a local veterinarian for over 13 years. She enjoys preventive, internal medicine and general surgery. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, pets, and competing in horse shows.