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City of Hamilton - Planning & Economic Development

Kids and Dogs

Have you ever heard someone say...?

"My dog is good with the kids, she lets them climb all over her, lie on her and pull her fur. She has never even growled. She would never bite a child."

This person is likely allowing situations to occur that could easily lead to a bite situation. Dogs do not like being treated this way by children. They may tolerate it, but they don't enjoy it.

Growling at the Kids
You should not punish a dog for growling at a child. This may seem counter-intuitive and may even go against the advice of dog trainers or even dog trainers that you have seen on TV. You should instead educate the child about appropriate behaviour around dogs. If a dog growls at a child it is sending a clear warning that it is very uncomfortable with the actions or proximity of the child and you need to tell the child what the growling means.

If the dog is punished for growling, it may not use a warning growl next time and the dog may bite without growling first. Punishment or scolding will not make the dog feel better about the child; in fact it may even feel more anxious and be even more likely to bite in the future, especially if an adult is not there to control the situation.

If a child cannot follow directions and/or has got into the habit of being rough with a dog, then the dog and child should be separated until the child has learned to treat the dog with kindness and respect. Seek the advice of a dog behaviour specialist who will use positive reinforcement to help teach the dog to change his attitude and to enjoy the company of the child. Do not assume that the dog will not bite because it hasn't yet. As dogs get older they can become less tolerant. Also, as the children get older the dog may become less tolerant of rough treatment.

A great way for kids to determine whether the dog is enjoying their petting is to "ask the dog if he wants more". Have the child stop petting the dog and see whether the dog shows by staying and snuggling that it wants more; or whether it gets up and leaves to indicate it doesn't want further attention.

Growing Up
As a child grows, the attitude of a dog may change. Behaviour that the dog tolerated from a baby may no longer be tolerated once the baby starts to crawl or walk. An older dog may be less tolerant than he was when he was younger.

No dog can or should be expected to tolerate repeated rough or inconsiderate handling by children. It is possible to condition dogs to the types of things that children may do, but even a dog that is conditioned to children should not be left unsupervised with them and should have a safe place from which he can retreat from the children. It is important for children to learn to treat the dog with kindness and to learn to respect the dog's wishes when it comes to dog/child interactions. Children can learn to read the dog's body language and know when the dog does and does not want to interact.

The information found on this webpage has been reproduced with permission from

They are a non-profit organization dedicated to Dog Bite Prevention and their mandate is guided by real world events and situations that have actually happened. Their mission is to promote education initiatives for the purpose of dog bite prevention and increased child safety around dogs and to provide support for dog bite victims. Doggone Safe provides educational programs to teach about dog bite prevention for schools, parents, expectant parents and workers.


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247 Dartnall Road Hamilton ON L8W 3V9
(located at the back of the SPCA building)
Phone: 905-574-3433

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