Teaching Children Dog Safety and Dog Bite Prevention (National Dog Bite Prevention Week)


The majority of children who meet Mr. N have no idea whatsoever how to greet dogs properly. They run up to him yelling “puppy” at the top of their lungs or grab at his face or want to pick him up or hug him. All of these can be risky behaviors around dogs, especially strange ones.

Children are the most common victims of dog bites and more likely to be severely injured. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, every year, more than 800,000 Americans receive medical attention for dog bites. And at least half of them are children.

Dog safety for children is a big component of the work that Mr. N’s therapy dog group does. When we do therapy visits at domestic violence shelters and schools, we also educate children on how to greet dogs properly, dog body language and bite prevention.

Mr. N in his therapy group uniform

We have the kids practice dog greetings on a stuffed animal before approaching the dogs. We teach them to:

  • Always ask the owner for permission.
  • Approach slowly and from a side angle.
  • Don’t lean/loom over the dog. The small dogs in Mr. N’s therapy group greet the children on ottomans so they are more at a level with the kids.
  • Pet gently in the direction of the fur growth.
  • Don’t pet dogs on the head.
  • Do NOT hug the dogs. Hugging is a primate behavior, not a canine one!
Dogs who want attention have soft, relaxed body language and faces and will approach you and solicit petting. Mr. N will shove his head under your hand if he wants to be petted. If they don’t, they may show signs like lip licking, turning their head away, yawning, scratching or the more obvious growling and snapping.We talk about different dogs’ tells. Mr. N has a very obvious one. His tail curls up over his back normally but when he’s stressed, his tail goes straight down towards the floor (we call it “sad tail”).


The dogs also get a designated “safe space” during therapy sessions in which to retreat if they need a breather. Mr. N has a fabric x-pen. We tell the children that when the dogs are in their special place, they need time to themselves and should be left alone.We emphasize that dogs are not toys. They do not enjoy kisses, dress up, being ridden like a horse, or being picked up precariously. Unlike toys, they have feelings. They don’t like when they’re teased, yelled at or being bothered when they’re eating.

77 percent of dog bites come from the family dog or a friend’s dog. Mr. N was the demo dog for a dog safety class where one of the participants was a little boy who had been bitten by a dog at a friend’s party. If he knew then what he knows now, he could have avoided that bite. If your children are aware of dog safety, it could save everyone a lot of pain and heartache!


We’re participating in a blogger collaboration for National Dog Bite Prevention Week. Check out these other blogs for our week-long series about dog (and cat) bites.
Fidose of Reality (Monday)
Random Felines (Tuesday)
Miss Molly Says (Thursday)
Savannah’s Paw Tracks (Friday)




60 Responses

  1. M Dawson

    May 18, 2016 9:27 am

    Parents have to learn about respect for other peoples dogs AND cats. Mr N is a little rock star teaching such valuable behaviour. Let's hope adults take it on board too!

    Silver at DashKitten

  2. Piranha Banana

    May 18, 2016 10:13 am

    This is excellent. I get so upset when I see people let their kids do whatever to dogs and then they get rid of them because the dog snapped at a kid. Other times people can't read their dog being stressed and just make the situation worse by their actions. I really wish that things would change and people would get required education before adopting a dog or cat. WOOF!

  3. Edie ThePug

    May 18, 2016 12:11 pm

    Great post! Not all dogs want attention from people and its important to understand this. It's imperative that children and adults, learn the signs and always ask before touching and approaching.

  4. Golden Daily Scoop

    May 18, 2016 12:51 pm

    This is fantastic! We have a Pet Care Education group in our community that goes to area schools and teaches children the signs to look for and also what to do if they witness an animal being abused. Education is so key especially starting it at a young age.

  5. Oz theTerrier

    May 18, 2016 1:21 pm

    A Terrierific post! Children approach Oz the same way – running towards him yelling "look a puppy" and such. I wish more parents would educate their kids on properly approaching a dog. I am so glad your therapy group provides such education. That is so great. And Mr N looks like a superhero in his uniform. Love it.

  6. Diane Holland

    May 18, 2016 2:33 pm

    Awesome post! I get this a lot from kids with my little chihuahua. She may be little and cute but she is the one that doesn't do well with kids. I have had ask so many times for them not to try and touch her. So thankful for these kind of post. Wonderful series and I agree it is so important to educate children and parents!

  7. Sherri Telenko

    May 18, 2016 5:32 pm

    If I saw this dog I'd probably run up and want to hug him too. Fortunately my dog Victor, who isn't always friendly toward other dogs, loves kids and is remarkably tolerate (though of course I still monitor him). I'm his fourth home, and some of his previous homes had nasty adults but all had kids be bonded with so I think that's a source of his trust. Right now, though, he's kid free.

  8. Montecristo Travels

    May 18, 2016 6:52 pm

    I totally get the need for this. Montecristo is only 3.5 pounds so everything is huge to him. he was also really injured by a 12 year old a few years back. Ever since then he has trouble with kids. We do a lot of work to bring him back … I find talking to the kids on what to do and expect helps a lot. I do it because for the most part the parents do not. Sadly.

  9. Bryn Nowell

    May 18, 2016 7:15 pm

    This is hugely important. Thanks so much for sharing your insight. I remember distinctly when I was bitten as a child, and it was because I was left unattended with a strange dog, and I didn't know how to read the signs of anxiety.

  10. Talent Hounds

    May 18, 2016 8:18 pm

    This is such an important topic – great program Mr N is in. Love those tips. We were just talking about a friend's dog that bit another friend's little daughter on the face really badly (my daughter was right next to her and we knew the dog well). He had never bitten before but had to be put down and the girl was scarred mentally and physically for life. We all think she probably did something to provoke the dog but no one saw. You are so right that kids often treat dogs like toys or tease them without understanding. Kilo the Pug will probably still bite adults that approach the wrong way or trigger his fear aggression. I am so grateful many people in our neighbourhood understand to ask before approaching and am very very careful.

  11. Kia

    May 18, 2016 8:34 pm

    These are all great tips. Thanks so much for sharing! I'm going to share it too as it is a very important topic for sure!

  12. FidoseofReality

    May 18, 2016 9:19 pm

    77 percent of dog bites come from the family dog or a friend's dog.

    That is staggering. Great piece and I am so glad we are all writing this together this week. Paw-er to the pets who are affected and hoping folks read this series and pass it on.

  13. Kerri Irwin

    May 18, 2016 9:43 pm

    Great post! Its not about training your dog to be good with kids its training your kids to be good around the dog. My daughter has grown up with dogs her whole life and I am constantly teaching her to respect and be kind and she knows hugs and kisses are not for dogs.

  14. MattieDog

    May 19, 2016 3:17 am

    Part of me thinks that parents need to teach that dogs, animals in general, are not toys or 'things' but creatures that deserve love and respect equal to that of a human. A child would not want someone running up to them in the way that many run up to little dogs – we've had children try to pull our dogs out of our arms! Great post!

  15. Lindsay Pevny

    May 19, 2016 5:25 am

    It can be tough to explain to children how to approach my dogs, but I'm amazed at how quickly they understand when I explain to them that the dogs can get scared, and sometimes show them how to give them gentle scratchies and pets. Kids know what it's like to feel shy or scared, so they can be empathetic to how the dog feels about being approached.

  16. Janet Keefe

    May 21, 2016 7:20 pm

    I'm always pleasantly surprised when children politely ask to pet one of the dogs. It's so good to know they've learned that first important step. I hope it's because more schools are bringing in groups like yours to teach them.
    This is something many adults might need to be educated on too!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets


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