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5 Tips for helping your dog and child build a healthy and safe relationship


Tip 1 - How to Pat a Greyhound

The most important thing to consider is whether that Greyhound wants to be patted. We all want our dogs to love and want our fuss and attention so making sure they are comfortable with it is number 1.

You need to use the dog's behaviour as a guide to whether it's appropriate for a child to pat the dog each and every time they are going to interact. There's a whole wealth of signs to look out for, such as:
  • Relaxed, open body language, meaning the dog’s overall muscles look relaxed, particularly the muscles of the face and mouth. When dogs smile this is actually a sign of tension in a dog unlike us humans. So a smiling dog is not relaxed and happy and interactions with children should be avoided when a perceived dog ‘smile’ is present.
  • The tail should be wagging loose and in a low position, not stiff
  • The greyhound is welcoming the pat, coming forward and leaning in and not retreating away
The behaviours above should be the first step in a positive interaction. Please note that even when a dog is showing good behaviour all interactions between dog and child should be supervised by a responsible adult, whether this is the parent or the owner of the dog.

What next?

It’s always a good idea to pat the shoulder, chest or chin, which are favourite spots for most dogs, not the top of the head. Also a little soft scratch is usually much more welcome by a dog than a pat from a flat hand.

Humans have typically been socialised to pat the top of the head, which is slightly more imposing for the dog and a very primate behaviour. Our fellow canine friends and family members can see a pat on the top of the head as very rude indeed. Most dogs are just being polite when they tolerate our primate head patting tendencies.

We also recommend approaching the dog in a way they can see the pat coming. So not while the dog is looking away, distracted by something else going on or snuck up on from behind. Make sure they can see the lovely fuss and attention that is coming their way.

Tip 2 - Choosing the Right Activities

Some of the great ways we recommend spending time with our pooches and children are below, remembering that there should be a supervising parent/guardian for all activities/interactions involving the child and dog, especially where you are looking for them to have fun together and build a long lasting bond.

  • Gentle touch and patting around an area the dog really enjoys such as a scratch on the chin or chest area. Hugging or kissing whilst valued by us human beings is seen as a very uncomfortable interaction by almost all dogs and should be avoided with dog children interactions.
  • Passive quiet time - meaning spending time together without direct interaction, to appreciate being calm around each other. Maybe watching a favourite TV program together.
  • Provide the dog with toys and other valuable objects to reward them for quiet and calm behaviour around the child.

We at GAP NSW would advise against games such as tug of war or any that increase energy levels in the dog or the child, just because when overexcited it’s easy for the child or dog to misjudge where the toy or hands are, which can pose an injury risk.

Tip 3 - Setting Up the House for Success

The house should be set up so that there's a great comfy space the dog can access that the child can't and vice versa. There should be locations/rooms the child can go, that the dog cannot necessarily follow them, these can be easily implemented with some child safety gates rather than closed doors.

This allows both the dog and the child the safety and freedom to opt out of interactions they are not comfortable with wherever possible. The last thing we want for either dog or child, is to force them into a situation where one or both feel like they can't escape and become anxious.

Another important note is to make sure that the dog’s bed is not in an area that people are walking past all the time and at risk of being stepped on. The dog will not see this as a comfy safe place so avoid hallways and doorways when finding a spot for your dogs bed or beds if they have a few. Best let sleeping dogs lie.

Tip 4 - Developing Household Rules

Even though house rules aren’t most people's favourite thing a few are essential when you have dogs and children together. Here’s a handful of house rules we recommend at GAP NSW:

  • If the dog is laying down or at rest, leave the dog alone. We discuss this at length in another article Shh! Should We Let Sleeping Dogs Lie? (The Answer Is…)
  • Don’t disturb the dog while they are eating
  • Don’t take food off the dog
  • Do always approach the dog with an open body language (loose and relaxed), not closed fists
  • Do keep treats and toys handy to use to reward good interactions such as the touch greeting mentioned in Tip 5 below

Tip 5 - Dealing with Over Excitedness or Jumpiness

What should parents/guardians do when the dog gets jumpy or overexcited?

The best thing to do is to separate the child and the jumping dog immediately. This will prevent the dog from accidentally knocking into the child and upsetting them. It will also allow you or the owner to call their dog away and calm them down to prepare for a more controlled interaction with the child.

We also recommend reinforcing alternative meet and greet behaviours, such as the dog touching their nose to the parent/child's hands as a form of greeting instead of jumping.

I'd like to adopt a dog from GAP NSW, I have more questions. How will I be supported?

If you've got children and you're looking to adopt a Greyhound get in touch and we'll best match you to a dog that our behaviour team/coordinators have observed as being calmer and most suitable to a household with children.

Please get in contact through our website contact page, or apply for a dog using our application form.

We’re happy to answer any questions you may have both before and after adoption.

We hope to add a plus one furry friend to your family!