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How to Create Safe and Fun Interactions Between Your Child and Your Dog

May 16, 2015

As a trainer with Four Legged Scholars LLC, dog training Salt Lake City,  I notice many families allowing their children to interact with their dogs in unhealthy ways.  When a dog feels uncomfortable, he / she becomes more likely to growl, lunge, snap or bite. I want you to create safe and healthy interactions with your child and your dog!

1.) Give your dog plenty of alone time.

No dog wants to be around children all of the time.  Children’s movements tend to more jerky, direct, loud and fast.  As a result, your dog needs a break from this high energy.

Here are some ways to give your dog break from your child.

  • Put a baby gate between your child and your dog.
  • Put your dog in his crate and keep your child away from crate.
  • Train your dog to go to his “place.” Your dog can learn to go to his bed on command and stay there until released.  Keep your child away from your dog’s place.
  • Put your dog in a separate room with the door closed.

It is also especially important to do the above when your child is being extra hyper and will not follow your directions.  Your dog will feel more calm and loved if he is not forced to be around a hyper child.

2.) Supervise your dog when he or she is with your child.

It is easy for your child to do things unintentionally that can make your dog feel uncomfortable.  Keep your child safe by always watching your dog when your dog and your child are together.  If you are not able to watch their interactions, put your dog behind closed doors away from your child.

3.) Learn about calming signals.

When your dog is stressed he will demonstrated certain behaviors to help himself calm down.  If these signs are not acknowledged then your dog may bite.  When your dog is exhibiting these signs, it is time to give your dog space and alone time. This will diffuse the stress.  However, if your dog is exhibiting these signs frequently around your child, it is important to do some dog training. Salt Lake City has many professional dog trainers that you can contact.  Make sure the trainer uses positive reinforcement dog training methods.

A list of some calming signals.

  • Lip lick
  • Shake Off (Your dog is shaking as if he is covered in water and is trying to dry off.)
  • Scratching
  • Sniffing
  • Yawning
  • Look Away (Turning his head away.)

On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas is a great book to read to learn and understand more about calming signals.

4.) Create positive interactions between your dog and your child.

If your dog has many enjoyable interactions with your child, he will be more relaxed and happy.  If most of the interactions that your dog has with your child are stressful, then, your dog will mostly feel stressed around your child. This will increase the chance of a dangerous interaction.

Here are some great games to play with your dog and your child.

  •  Begin by having a baby gate between your child and your dog. Give your dog a treat every time he looks at your child. This is a good game to play if your dog demonstrates fearful or aggressive behavior around your child.  We strongly advise that you seek a professional, Salt Lake City, dog trainer to address this issue.
  • If your child is able to give treats calmly to your dog and your dog is able to gently eat treats from people’s hands, have your child give your dog treats. To prevent your child from constantly chasing your dog, have a baby gate between your child and your dog.
  • If you have  toddler, have your dog clean up the food scraps on the floor after your child is done eating.  In my household, I have my dog stay on his bed (“place”) while my daughter eats.  When she is done eating and still sitting in the high chair, I release Seiki off his place to eat her leftovers off of the floor.
  • Play fetch with your child and your dog.  Make sure you are able to keep your dog calm with this game to avoid jumping.  If your child is unable to throw the ball you can still have them participate.  My daughter is only 1.5 years. This past week I played a game of fetch with a baby gate between my dog and my daughter.  My daughter held the ball in her hand and reach over the baby gate.  I asked Seiki to “get the ball.” When he grabbed the ball, I would click to reinforce the positive interaction with my daughter.  Then I would ask Seiki to “drop” the ball.  Lastly, I would throw the ball.  This process was repeated.
  • Take your child on walks with your dog. Remember to increase safety measures you can walk with your dog on leash. You can also have your child in a stroller or a carrier.  I personally love the ergo carrier and it is usable until your child reaches 40 lbs.

5.) Teach your child to interact with your dog appropriately.

As  a professional Salt Lake City dog trainer, I personally recommend to teach this at a very early age.

  • Teach them to pet your dog softly.  Every time your child softly pets your dog praise him / him.  When your child forgets gently remind him / her to pet gently.  Personally I taught this to Iris when she was less than a year old.  Now she is 1.5 years and she says “soft” when she touches Seiki, people, and our cat (Batty).  I have to say it is adorable!
  • Teach your child to stay away from your dog while he is eating any meals.
  • Teach your child to stay away from your dog when he is laying on his “place” or when he is in his crate.
  • When your child is old enough, teach him / her to give your dog a treat for sitting.
  • Teach your child to move slowly and talk nicely around your dog.  Yelling and running will definitely increase your dog’s arousal level.
  • If your child is 3 years of age or older, play the board game Doggone Crazy.  This game will teach your child how to read dog behavior and how to interact with dogs appropriately.

An entire book can be written on how to create safe interactions between your dog and your child. We have only touched-based on this issue. If you are interested in learning more we recommend working with a dog trainer.  Salt Lake City has a large variety of positive reinforcement dog trainers.  We also recommend that you read Living with Kids and Dogs … Without Loosing Your Mind by Colleen Pelar, CPDT.

Your Turn!

We want to hear from you!  Please write a comment below.  Which ideas above will you apply with your child and your dog to create more positive interactions?  What are some of your favorite games to play with your child and your dog?

Happy Training!

Johanna Teresi, Professional trainer and owner of Four Legged Scholars LLC, dog training, Salt Lake City

Blog Archives

Britnie Sorensen
Britnie Sorensen
18:11 06 Apr 24
This is our second round of training with Johanna! Our Bullmastiff Abbi is different from our previous dogs, and we knew Johanna would be able to help us. We reached out and were in excellent hands! Johanna was able to redirect our training efforts, majority of sessions were held virtually and supported with videos of us training Abbi. We will keep using Johanna no matter where life takes us. Her love and compassion for our puppy, and us, come through in every interaction. We are in a much better place and understanding of Abbi after working with Johanna!
Roberta Bonnell
Roberta Bonnell
01:37 24 Mar 24
My Australian Shepard had moderate separation anxiety and Johanna was able to help me get him to a point where I can see him being able to be home alone before the end of the year! Very grateful for all of her training expertise.
Karen Mara
Karen Mara
21:19 21 Jan 24
I recently met with Johanna for help with my rambunctious teenager, Roger. We worked on coming when called, leash walking, and staying calm around other dogs when on leash. After two sessions, Roger made huge improvements, and he continues to improve as we practice on our own. Johanna really understands dogs and is very good at communicating with people. She knows how to make dog training fun. I've worked with other trainers, and Johanna is by far the best.
Wendy Nighswonger
Wendy Nighswonger
18:47 08 Jul 23
I have known Johanna for 13 years. She has helped me with several dogs, but she recently helped me train my new black lab puppy, Raven. I have moved to another state so all of my training with Raven was done online via Zoom. I believe that the one-on-one training I received through Zoom was more personalized and thorough, especially with the way Johanna placed every ounce of training and recommendation on a board through an app that I can refer back when I need. Johanna is very intuitive and knew when stress was on overload for me, therefore tailoring my training for that day around making Raven feel good while simultaneously taking my stress load down. Johanna has years of experience and while her knowledge is a gold mine, it is her gentle patience and love for her clients that make this training so perfect. I would hire her again and again. She is a true canine whisperer. Thank you Four Legged Scholars and thank you Johanna!Wendy N. ~ Oregon
Christina Richards
Christina Richards
18:13 10 Feb 23
Johanna at Four Legged Scholars is great. She tailored my program to fit my needs and was easy to work with. My puppy responded very well to what she taught us together over Zoom. She's patient and understanding. We're still utilizing the things we learned and he's a well-behaved puppy. Thank you!
Karyl Bennion
Karyl Bennion
19:49 05 Feb 23
I adopted Frida as a companion that I could travel, walk and hike with. She loves to hike and walk but pulled on the leash and jumped at distractions. I learned how to be calm and talk in a non threatening way to her. She responds to this much better than yelling at her. The click and treat method that I learned works so well in getting her attention as well as the "target" training. Frida has improved greatly with these methods. I will continue the knowledge I have learned with her. I did the live on-line training and it was very successful. I am so happy we signed up.
Rachel Giddings
Rachel Giddings
02:57 12 Dec 22
My dog was abused in his previous home and has always been afraid of strangers. I wanted to train him and help him to be more confident, but I didn't know how to do that if he was afraid of his trainer.Doing online training with Joanna was perfect for both of us! Joanna helped me learn how to read my dog and understand his triggers. We then worked together on BAT training, which taught him self-soothing behaviors and showed him how to confidently and safely handle difficult situations. I never thought I would have fun doing homework with my dog, but he and I benefited from it tremendously. Working with Joanna via Zoom was perfect for my dog and me.
Shawn McMillen
Shawn McMillen
02:09 24 Oct 22
My 2 year old doodle was struggling with people walking by the house, barking incessantly, tugging on walks, improving recall when off leash and , for me, how to be a better more engaging human for my buddy. The personalized, online sessions exceeded all my expectations. The review of video homework sessions was awesome. We saw improvement in each of the priority areas and I developed real, tangible, lasting skills/tools to be a better pet person. Thanks Johanna!
Courtney Daniels
Courtney Daniels
19:59 12 Sep 22
12 years ago I got a puppy and quickly realized I was in over my head. I wanted to have a good, well trained dog, but I was overwhelmed by methods and my puppies behavior.I joined the four legged scholars puppy training with my little 4 month old puppy Bowie, and saw immediate understanding with the clicker work. It gave us this incredibly ability to communicate and she excelled.We went on to take several courses that established general obedience, helped me turn a STRONG leash puller into a loose leash master (I took that course twice because it was a huge issue for us and I NEEDED help and reassurance from Johanna that I could do it) as well as skill class, that helped solidify a beautiful relationship between us. Learning clicker shaping allowed me to confidently teach complex and unique commands on my own as well, like waving hello and closing kitchen cabinets.My Bowie has climbed to the top of mountains for me staying right by my side never pulling on her leash. I've targeted her off trails to protect her from startling a mama moose and her baby. She's loved on my kids without jumping on them and knocking them over. She's allowed the neighbor girl who has always had a fear of dogs to walk her without pulling at whatever pace she was comfortable with. She shows off with all her fun little tricks Johanna gave me the tools to train my dog into an amazing companion.I feel so lucky to have found your training program and to have the relationship I do with my Bowie girl. These courses have a profound and lasting impact on the lives of families and their pups, thank you for that gift.
Megan Pond-Maxwell
Megan Pond-Maxwell
16:02 18 May 22
I am so grateful to have found Johanna. She was with us every step of the way as we tackled separation anxiety training and reactivity training with Daisy, my Mini Australian Shepherd. As a first time dog owner, I felt at a loss about how to manage my very vocal, scared, stressed, yet loveable dog. She had all of the typical puppy behavior, such as jumping, nipping/biting, leash pulling, as well as barking. On top of that, she was also not able to be alone without feeling terrified, as well as vocally and behaviorally reactive to other dogs, adults, and kids. I felt completely overwhelmed and Johanna created programs that felt manageable and doable. Each training session, I felt understood and empowered working with Johanna. Over the course of our programs, I felt that we accomplished the steps of the training process, strengthened the dog-human relationship, and increased my own awareness of my dog's emotional cues so that I could better work with her. My dog can now be on her own feeling relaxed and playful, her problematic puppy behaviors have significantly improved, she can walk on her leash loosely, listen to commands, and she can better tolerate other adults, dogs, and children as compared to where we first started. Our online experience was very positive. I look forward to continually implementing the tools and skills we have learned along the way to move forward in a positive direction that strengthens our human-animal bond and reduces distressing behaviors and emotional stress and overwhelm. Thank you Four Legged Scholars! I highly, highly recommend working with Johanna.
Emily Harward
Emily Harward
03:36 24 Apr 22
Our rescue dog is sweet and playful with us, but her behavior around other dogs and people could be unpredictable. She would act aggressively around adults (lunging and barking), and would sometimes be aggressive toward other dogs. We chose to do online training with Johanna. I was skeptical that online training would work, but it ended up being very effective. Johanna taught me the skills I needed to train my dog, and provided resources that I could use throughout the week as I worked on the assigned tasks. I was also able to send her videos of me working with my dog, so she could provide feedback and help me improve. Johanna personalized the program and made changes as needed to ensure that I could meet my goals. Since working with Four Legged Scholars, neighbors have commented on how much better behaved my dog is, and I don't have to worry about her lunging and barking at people or other dogs when we are out for a walk anymore. We still have a lot of work to do with our dog, and I feel like doing the personalized online sessions with Johanna has given me the knowledge, and resources to continue training my dog.
Angel Lanoy
Angel Lanoy
15:22 16 Jun 21
We have a large family, including three big dogs. So when our biggest dog Obi, the Rottweiler, started showing aggression we panicked. The vet suggested we put him down after an experience in the office. He then said we could also try training and gave us Johanna's business card. Just a phone call with her made us feel like there was hope. We signed up to do the online sessions with FourLeggedScholars. The process from the first contact to the last was well oiled and very helpful. Obi gets to stay with our family now and we feel like meting with her has given us the guidance and knowledge we need to keep our family, friends and him safe. I was a tad worried about doing the training online, but it really worked out great and we were able to fit such a big task into our busy schedules. I feel like she set us up for success from the very beginning. Thank you.
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  1. Patricia

    My dog loves to be “chased” so I used to carry my babies on my back chasing the dogs. Great exercise when they were young, now they spend a lot of time playing together 🙂

  2. fourleggedscholars

    Patricia that is hilarious when I think of that vision! How awesome of you to honor your dogs’ needs and your children’s needs. Thank you for sharing!!

  3. anjara

    I love it!
    I love your tips to give space to our furry family members. Many people forget to teach our kids to behabe and respect our dogs.
    My dogs love kids and love playing with the little ones ^_^

    • fourleggedscholars

      Awesome!! I am glad that your kids and dogs are so great with each other!