The Gentle Touch: Teaching Kids How to Pet a Dog

Children and dogs can be playmates, partners in crime, and best friends, but children must learn appropriate, gentle, and safe behavior with dogs. Even the gentlest dog may lash out if a child causes the dog pain, fear, or anxiety. Behavioral issues are one of the main reasons dogs end up in shelters. That can include biting or growling because a child wasn’t taught about animal consent. To ensure a safe relationship between the two, here are some tips on teaching kids how to pet a dog gently and safely.

Benefits of Growing up with a Dog

Growing up with dogs is a wonderful experience for children. It teaches them empathy, compassion, responsibility, and sharing. Most importantly, it provides loving companionship that your child will always treasure. Children never forget their first dog. However, parents must equip children with the foundation of safe handling and respect for dogs.

Teaching Children About Animal Consent

Lots of families with children like Labrador Retrievers or Golden Retrievers, but even easy-going dogs deserve respect and proper treatment. Just because a dog tolerates handling doesn’t mean they enjoy it.

Parents are responsible for teaching animal consent to children, including babies, who have an instinct to grab. Children are the most common victims of dog bites. By teaching them how to pet a dog safely and gently, you can help to prevent bites.

4 Steps to Teach Children How to Pet a Dog

Before starting, you must remind the child that not all dogs want to be touched. Even dogs who like pets don’t want them all the time. With that in mind, let’s go over the steps:

Step 1: Show Them Where and How to Pet

Take your child by the hand and place an open hand gently on the dog’s back. Keep your hand on top of theirs. If the pup rolls over, you can touch their belly the same way.

Step 2: Practice Petting the Dog

Now that your child knows what a soft touch is, you can show them how to pet a dog. Using a gentle motion, pet with one hand only, starting from the neck and moving toward the tail. Practice this regularly.

Step 3: Be Patient

Don’t expect immediate results. Those don’t happen in dog training or when you’re teaching your kid something new. Praise your child when they practice how to pet a dog and praise your dog for being an amazing pup!

Step 4: Lay Down the Rules

One of the best ways to prevent dog bites (and upset dogs) is to lay down ground rules for your child to learn, which include:

  • Don’t pull on a dog’s tail, ears, or fur
  • Don’t step on paws
  • Don’t sit on, bounce on, or ride a dog
  • No hitting, kicking, or rough behavior
  • Don’t touch a dog who’s eating
  • Don’t touch a dog’s food or bowl

As long as you teach your child early on how to pet a dog safely and gently, your human and fur babies should get along great and will hopefully be lifelong friends.



Aleksandar Mishkov

Aleksandar Mishkov is a 36-year-old dog enthusiast. He has been living with dogs his entire life, and nowadays, he shares his life with a 6-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, Milo. Visit Aleksander at his website, The Daily Tail, where he shares helpful tips on how to train and make sure your dog behaves properly.

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