Tips to Consider if Your Dog is Scared of Children


Dog with a childChildren and dogs often do really well together. I always had a dog growing up, and our family golden retriever was very tolerant of us kids playing rough with her, chasing her, taking her toys and so on. She didn’t seem to mind one bit and likely enjoyed this kind of attention from us.

For other dogs, though, children can be stressful, annoying or even scary, especially if the dog is not used to them.

The following are some tips to consider if your dog is uncomfortable around kids.

Tips for Dogs Afraid of Children

First, consult with a professional trainer.

Even if you know a lot about dog training and behavior, it’s still a good idea to get a second opinion.

If you think there is any possibility that your dog could bite, it’s best to get a professional dog trainer to help diagnose the issue, said Oscar Mora, lead trainer at No Limit Dog Training in Los Angeles. A professional will be able to help you put together a plan to solve the problem.

Saying things like, “He just growls” or “He hasn’t actually bitten anyone” is just excusing bad behavior and ignoring the problem, Mora said.

Understand why the dog might be afraid.

I asked Mora why some dogs are afraid of kids, and he said it’s because dogs are sometimes fearful of what they don’t know.

Dogs that haven’t been exposed to children may express fear around them, he said. The same may be true if the dog has had a bad experience with a child in the past.

Pinpoint what is stressful to your dog and make a list of “triggers.”

When you are trying to help your dog overcome any sort of fear, it helps to make a list of what seems to “trigger” those fears.

For example, maybe your dog is OK around calm, quiet children who pass her during walks. But perhaps she barks and lunges at children who are running or squealing. Maybe she is OK with children who are five feet away, but begins to tense up when a child reaches out to pet her.

Being aware of these triggers and getting everyone in your family on board will help once you work with a trainer to plan how to desensitize your dog to these triggers.

Teach the children in your life to be respectful of your dog.

One important step to helping your dog feel relaxed around kids is to help the kids in your life understand your dog.

“Many of the dog/child problems that occur happen because the child didn’t pay attention to the dog’s boundaries or the signals the dog was giving,” Mora said. “Teach children how to appropriately approach and touch a dog and help them understand when a dog would like to be left alone.”

For example, a dog retreating to another room or to his crate or bed shouldn’t be bothered, Mora said. Dogs should also be left alone when they are eating or sleeping.

Always supervise children around dogs

Of course, some children are too young to recognize a dog’s signals, which is why they should never be left unsupervised around a dog, according to Mora.

I would like to add that just being present is not enough. Adults need to pay attention to the child’s actions and to the dog’s signals and be ready to intervene long before the dog is feeling too stressed.

Some signs that could suggest your dog is feeling stressed include lots of lip smacking or tongue flicking, lots of yawning, heavy panting when it’s not hot or simply moving away or looking away from the child. Some dogs will also lift one paw up and lean away from the child if they are unsure. They may also tense up or growl. If you see any of these behaviors from your dog, it’s best to gently and calmly move her away from the situation.

Do any of you have dogs that are uncomfortable around kids? What have you done to help your dog?


About Lindsay Stordahl

Lindsay Stordahl is a blogger for She has a black Lab mix named Ace and two naughty cats named Beamer and Scout. Lindsay owns a pet sitting business called Run That Mutt and also maintains the blog ... Add Lindsay to your Google+ circles at . You can follow Lindsay on Twitter @ThatMutt.

  1. Great post, Lindsay. Lola is frightened of children trying to pet her. She does fine in their presence and will basically ignore them until they try to come up to her. She was harassed by small children when she was a pup and has apparently never forgot that. We are working with her, but it can be difficult of course if you don’t have any children to regularly ‘practice’ with. Sharing 🙂

  2. my dog Seven is quiet laid back (lazy), doesn’t bark. In fact she has barked 5-6 times in her 4 years and only when someone was at my door when I was home alone…but she is afraid of kids. She is good with them at a distance but does not want them near her. we camp with 2 friends regularly that have 2 small kids (7&9) that she is okay with and will let them walk her, but only them. She has let some pet her on walks and been fine/relaxed (calm kids) but then there are ones she wants nothing to do with. Our kids are grown so her socialization with small kids is very limited. I have found that if she’s on a tie out or leash she is more edgier because she feels she can’t get away, so I will take her off lead and supervise when she walks away or avoids I tell the kids to ignore her, she will often come back on her own, out of curiosity. I have also given the kids treats for her that I think is helping. the only other anxiety/fear she has is of the car. She will get in willingly but when it starts up she acts like the world is ending. I’m associating both fears to noise/fast movement. I have been using calming spray/thunder coat but I think they are minimal aides. I do believe if she can concur one fear the other will fall into place..fingers crossed. any suggestions are welcome


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