How to Teach Dogs to Like Kids

Teach your dog fun, friendly ways to interact with kids on the street.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #56

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how parents can help children greet dogs safely and enjoyably. This week I’ll focus on the dog, and on the person holding that leash. We’ll talk about how to raise a dog who likes children, how to handle meetings with unfamiliar kids, and what to do if your dog just isn’t a big fan of children.

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How to Teach Dogs to Like Kids

If you read my articles regularly, you can probably predict what I’m going to say first: it’s easier to start off on the right foot than it is to repair problems that already exist. If you have a puppy who’s still in the formative early weeks of life--under the age of about 12 to 14 weeks--be sure to provide her with plenty of pleasant, relaxed experience with kids. Take a pocketful of tasty, nutritious treats and bring your puppy to places where kids may be found--a street corner or the entrance of a child-oriented store, for instance. Children gravitate to puppies; give them treats to offer your pup and allow gentle children to give scritches. Sit on a park bench near a playground and let your pup absorb the movement and noise as normal, ignorable parts of life.

Socialization Should Be Relaxed and Fun

Help your puppy learn to enjoy children by keeping meetings pleasant and relaxed.

Remember, “socialization” doesn’t mean you throw your puppy into the deep end of the pool and hope she knows how to swim. The key to success is to keep exposures pleasant and relaxed. Don’t wear your puppy out or force her to deal with sights and sounds that frighten her. If she responds timidly to kids, enlist some gentle, quiet children who can just sit and let her get to know them at her own pace. Introduce the kids one at a time. Encourage your puppy and praise her when she checks the child out, but never push.

What If Your Dog Already Likes Kids?

So you’ve got a dog who loves kids--whether your dog is a puppy you socialized yourself, or you’ve adopted a kid-friendly adult.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).