How to train my dog and child to behave safely around each other?

Dog and child sitting next to each other on the grass

Many dog biting incidents happen in a home environment and often by a dog that is often known to the child, so it is important to follow some basic safety rules. Always ensure there is proper supervision and visiting guests should never touch a dog without asking first. Make sure your rules are consistent to avoid confusing your child or dog.

Young children can unwittingly encourage puppies to chase them. Making loud noises, playing high-energy games or running around waving their arms can result in a dog trying to chase them. This can encourage a dog to pull on their clothing or nip their ankles, so it’s important children learn how to act around dogs.

Safe and Sound

Launched in 2003 the initiative promotes the safe interaction between children and dogs. This scheme teaches children and their guardians what they should do the ensure children are taught how to react around dogs. You can find out more about the initiative and download some of our posts to help raise awareness of child and dog safety on the Safe and Sound page.

What to do if you want to say ‘hello’ to a dog

  • Always ask the owner first before touching a dog
  • Approach the dog calmly, put your hands by your side
  • Make a loose fist with one hand, if necessary bring your arm slowly towards the dog
  • Then let the dog sniff the back of your hand as this tells the dogs about you
  • Then gently stroke the dog under the chin

Become a tree - what to do if a dog jumps up and frightens you

  • Stand still
  • Drop everything you are holding
  • Fold your arms across your chest
  • Tuck your chin in
  • Don’t move
  • Don’t scream
  • Don’t run away
  • Don’t move your arms
  • Don’t stare at the dog
  • Act casual
  • You are now a tree
  • When the dog moves away walk slowly and calmly away from the dog just keeping your eye on it. If it comes back be a tree again
  • When the dog has gone away tell a responsible adult

Become a stone - what to do if a dog knocks you over

  • If you have been knocked over by a dog and you are on the floor
  • Don’t try to get up or make sudden noises
  • Let go of anything in your hands
  • Cover your face with your hands
  • Keep your tucked elbows in
  • Roll onto your front
  • Keep your legs together
  • Pull your knees up to your chest
  • Tuck yourself up as tight as possible (protecting the major organs of the body)
  • Keep still
  • You are now a stone
  • Don’t move until the dog has gone away
  • After the dog has gone tell a responsible adult

If you do not want your dog to enter a specific room such as the baby's room, teach them that it is a restricted area. A good alternative is to set up a baby gate in the door of the baby's room. This allows your dog to see what's happening without entering the room. A quiet area for your dog to escape to is essential.

If your child feels intimidated by dogs, there are steps that you can use to teach them how to manage their fear better. Prevention is the best cure and anyone who wants to teach children how to stay safe around dogs and how to recognise the warning signs of when a dog might bite, should use our online resource, Safe and Sound, which promotes safe interaction between children and dogs.

Further advice

Please note there are many ways you can handle dog behaviour. If you are ever in doubt, always seek professional advice. If you have any further questions or need advice on who to contact, please contact our team.

For more information and advice, you can find training classes with The Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Training scheme. Browse our full list of The Kennel Club Accredited Instructors or find a dog training club near you.