Dogs and Children

“Dogs behave as though they expect us to read their expressions accurately. When we don’t … both dogs and humans can get in a lot of trouble.” -McConnell, Patricia. For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend. Ballatine Books, 2009.

The key to successful child-dog relationships is in communication and careful management.

Dogs provide us cues about how they feel. Don’t wait for obvious cues, like trembling, growling, or biting, to intervene in child-dog interactions. More subtle signs your dog may be stressed are panting, yawning, tongue flicks, ears not in their natural position, wide eyes, avoiding eye contact, tail tucked, or tail tilted to one side. If they are up and moving around, they may sniff a lot, drink more water, mark/urinate, mount, or seem distracted. One major word of caution… you should not correct your dog for growling. It is a warning sign for a bite, and if you take that away, they are more likely to bite with no warning. Instead, manage the cause of the aggression.

I have observed certain practices in my home that I believe created a loving and respectful relationship between my nine-year-old dog and my three-year-old daughter. While I am not an animal behaviorist or dog trainer, my years of working with dogs have given me a lot of insight into how dogs communicate their emotions, and how to successfully respond to the messages they are sending. My personal belief is that it is not enough that our pets tolerate their relationship with children, but that they have the same excitement and bond with them that they do with us.

Try using these phrases:

  • What is Buddy’s body doing?
  • When Buddy’s body does ___, it means he feels stressed/scared/tired.
  • Isn’t it fun to watch Buddy do ____ It means he is happy/relaxed/excited.
  • How do you think Buddy feels when you do ___?
  • You may play with Buddy when he invites you.
  • If you are upset/angry/scared, ask a grown up for help with Buddy.
  • When you are calm, Buddy feels calm. When you are excited, Buddy feels excited. He looks up to you.
    Here are some other ideas for creating a respectful and loving child/dog relationship:

  • Allow your children to participate in caregiving routines as soon as they show interest.
  • When petting your dog, ask them to pretend their hand is a pancake.
  • Massage your child’s arms, legs, or head with your fingers, then ask them to give your dog a massage the same way.
  • Practice body parts by only allowing them to touch or pet the spot you say. “Show me Buddy’s ear, shoulder, foot,” …etc.
  • Dogs and children should have safe spaces and breaks from one another.
  • If your dog is experiencing sickness, pain, or outside stress, they may act differently.
dogs and little boy


First Aid Kits for Pets

At Club Pet and Club Pet Too, we enroll all our staff in Pet First Aid courses as a part of their job training. Many of our employees have commented that one of their favorite parts of the course was learning how to build a pet first aid kit. Many of us now have them in our homes and cars.

We use the online course available at — Anyone can enroll!

Below is a list of the contents of a basic pet first aid kit:

  • At least two slip-leads
  • Bottled water
  • Very tasty dog treats or canned food (hint: most dogs can’t resist canned cat food) with a pull-top
  • A container for water, a plate for food
  • Plastic baggies
  • Safety pin (to poke a hole in Diphenhydramine capsules, or for sliver removal)
  • Emergency blanket
  • (Muzzle-set) You can make a muzzle from a slip-lead if you don’t want to commit to this one!
  • Gauze roll
  • Non-stick gauze pads
  • Gauze or cotton pads (get a big stack, used to control bleeding)
  • Adhesive tape
  • Q-Tips (long handled are better)
  • Tongue depressor(s)
  • Digital thermometer (since nobody reads the old-fashioned ones anymore)
  • Spare battery for your thermometer
  • Bandage scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Syringe (100mL)
  • Pen light
  • Antibiotic Ointment
  • Topical Steroid Cream
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Lubricant, such as petroleum jelly
  • Saline Solution
  • Styptic powder
  • Pepcid (10 mg recommended)
  • Diphenhydramine capsules (for quick action)


Enrichment Activities for Your Dog

Can’t make it to daycare? Here are some enrichment activities to entertain your dogs that go beyond the basics of tug-of-war, fetch, and walks. Activities that offer mental stimulation can calm anxious dogs, curb unwanted behaviors, and improve communication between you and your dog.

1. Bones: Both natural and synthetic bones provide dogs an outlet through chewing, and dogs’ latent prey instincts are activated by the smells and flavors of the treats. Until you know your dogs’ chewing habits, don’t leave them unattended with bones!

2. Stuffed Kongs: If you have the time, pop them in the freezer after you stuff them. Your dogs will stay busy licking, digging & chewing the tasty treats out of the center. Popular stuffers are peanut butter, cheese, broths, and pumpkin. These can also be mixed with favorite treats or food. BEWARE OF XYLITOL — this is a common sweetener in human food products that is toxic to dogs!

3. Food Dispensing Toys: as dogs bump and knock the toy around, kibble falls out. Dogs will work hard to get all the food out. The food also falls out in an unpredictable way, and that added challenge provides more stimulation.

4. Snuffle Mats (nose work): Dogs explore the world with their noses. Introducing them to interesting smells is like teaching them a new language! Certain herbs and spices, the scent of other animals, and of course, food, can all be infused into snuffle mats, toys and bedding. If your dog shows a real interest in using their sniffer, you can take it a step further and play hide and seek with the new smells.

5. Bubbles: Dogs are wowed by the bubbles bobbing in the air, catching them in their mouth, watching, chasing. They are unpredictable (like prey) and that adds a level of mental stimulation that chasing a ball lacks. You can even get scented bubbles!

Dogs love bubbles

6. Laser Pointer or Toys on a String (just like the cats like): Get your dog moving from the comfort of a chair!

7. Sound Enrichment: Certain kinds of music, wind chimes, or specially produced “dog soundtracks” can break up the monotony of a too-familiar environment.

8. Massage: Slow, intentional touch, where you pet or massage your dog in a pattern, carefully holding or massaging specific spots on their bodies, takes thought. Your dog will also be thinking about how you’re handling them, and therefore, this kind of touch becomes an enrichment activity.

9. Casual Walks: Allow dogs some purposeless walks, where they can wander and sniff entirely at their own pace!