Paws for Thought

How to help children stay safe around dogs

It is currently half term in the UK and we are experiencing beautiful weather! This means more children and dogs together out in the public parks.

I was out walking dogs yesterday and a toddler spotted us. He got over excited and came running over carrying his toy sword and screaming and shouting. I think he wanted to play with the dogs. They definitely didn’t see it that way and luckily the only reaction it caused was for the timid ones to run away.

It got me thinking about some tips that parents could easily bear in mind to remember, and to pass on to their children. So that both dogs and children can safely enjoy the beautiful summer ahead.

1. Always ask the owner or walker if you can pet the dog

Some dogs love attention and others are incredibly grumpy. Just like people they have their own way and their own personality. It is best to check with the owner first as they will know them best.

2. Allow a dog to smell you

Before petting any dog make a fist with your hand and allow the dog to sniff you first. Smelling you is their way of getting to know you more.

3. Cross your arms if a dog is jumping up at you

Some dogs get carried away and over excited, and it is natural for them to jump up and want to share that joy with you. Stand still and cross your arms to let them know with your body language that jumping up on you is not acceptable.

4. Do not disturb a dog that is eating or sleeping

Some dogs are very possessive of their food and if you disturb them while they are eating they may snap or growl to keep you away. Same for sleeping!

5. Strange dog approaching?

Stand very still, look away from the dog and again cross your arms. It may seem counter intuitive to stand with your back to the dog but this is the clearest signal to let a dog know that you are not interested in communicating with them, in any way

6. Move gently, calmly and quietly around a dog you don’t know

Dogs communicate through complex and co-ordinated movements, children are bundles of energy with uncoordinated movements that often run head first towards a dog. Often a dog will bark at this action, not to scare the child, but to try and tell them child in dog language that they are not comfortable with their clumsy and energetic approach.


The Dogs Trust are offering free safety workshops for parents and children. If you would like to arrange a ‘Be Dog Smart’ workshop at your local school, library or community centre please visit


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