Dog Training for Kids

Dog training is essential for the well being of a dog but it is also essential for the people that encounter them. A bad encounter as a child can result in years of fear.

I have walked dogs thousands of miles over the last fourteen years. Most walks have been uneventful and very enjoyable. But there have been times that a neighbor’s unleashed dog or a wandering cat has added a little excitement; a sudden cloud burst has made some of the miles quite unpleasant; and on several occasions, uneven pavement has sent me tumbling to the ground–but I have never let go of the leash!

Long experience has made me very cautious of some situations, especially involving children.

Children Need Training

Some dogs, especially small ones, do not enjoy being pet by children. Kids are unpredictable; they move suddenly, they can be loud in their excitement and they can try to hug the animal, which is a potentially dangerous situation. When I can’t avoid an encounter, I tell the adult with the child that the dog is not mine and I do not know how the dog will behave. Most understand and agree it is best the child leave the dog alone.

I have learned that many people never teach their children to be cautious around a strange dog and how best to approach them.

An Old Man’s Terror

Many years ago, I glanced up from watching a dog named Jack as he sniffed a pile of autumn leaves to see an older man of slight stature who had just rounded the corner. He stood frozen on the sidewalk, arms hanging stiffly by his sides, extending slightly outwards. His mouth formed a big ‘O’ and eyes were wide with what I could only interpret as terror. He was also watching Jack.

Jack was a short-haired, pointy-eared, 50-pound dog of mixed heritage and wouldn’t have hurt a fly. He would have ignored the gentleman, had he even noticed him, because Jack was not a dog that craved attention from strangers. Although I doubt knowing this would have lessened this poor man’s fright. I hustled Jack away in search of an equally aromatic pile of leaves on the opposite side of the street.

As someone who loves dogs, it is very disturbing to see someone react this way to them. These creatures can be so loving and gentle but I can understand a person being frightened, especially if there has been a bad experience with a dog in their past.

As Parents Watch …

Even dogs that have gone through training can react negatively if they feel threatened by the way a person comes up to them and tries to touch them.

It is always disturbing to see a child quickly approach me with his or her hands extended to pet my dog as the parent casually watches without comment. I have owned an extremely affection dog but I always felt obliged to stop a child and explain how to approach him. Bad experiences can often be avoided if we understand how to interact properly with these animals.

How to Approach

People need training as much as the dogs. First of all, a child should be taught to never approach a strange dog, especially if unattended by its owner. Assuming the owner is present, the child should first ask permission to pet the dog. It is important that they understand that the answer they may receive may will be no and it is not because the owner is trying to be mean to them. Like people, some dogs may have had bad experiences interacting with children and may no longer trust them.

If the answer is yes, the child should slowly approach the animal, from the side if possible, with an extended fist. They should be told that they should not look the dog in the eyes because looking straight into a dog’s eyes can be a little scary for them. It is a sign of aggression on the part of the child.

The dog should be allowed to sniff the back of the hand before the child tries to touch the animal. Wait until the owner indicates it is okay to pet the dog and then slowly reach out and pet the dog on the side of the face, under the chin, or on the chest. Dogs do not like to be petted on the top of their heads.

As a precaution, the child should get into the habit of keeping his or her face away from the dog’s face. They will likely avoid only a good licking but it is better to be cautious.

Always be Watchful

No matter how friendly or how much training a dog has had, circumstances may arise that may make the animal uncomfortable. If there are any signs of unease (ears are being put back, there is growling or whimpering, the dog is turning his head or backing away, etc.), the child should be told to quietly and slowly back away from the animal.

Training to Prevent Hurt Feelings

One day when I was walking a dog that was not my own, a beautiful, curly haired young girl about 6 years old came running towards us with a big smile on her face, arms outstretched to hug my small, white, fluffy companion. As she came close I said, “Please, stop. I’m sorry, but my dog is afraid of people.”  Because the dog was small, it was more likely to be fearful of children. I had no concrete knowledge that this particular dog had any problems dealing with kids, but I didn’t want to take a chance.

Although I tried to explain further, I felt so badly when she turned away crying and ran back towards her parents. But perhaps in the future, she will not be frozen like a statue on the sidewalk at the mere sight of a dog sniffing a pile of leaves.

Dog and people training is always needed.


Having been in business since 2004, many of the animals that I started caring for as puppies, kittens and young animals are now grey, slow and no longer see or hear very well. A large number of them have also passed away.

I was introduced to Alfred and Abby, a Cocker Spaniel and Black Lab, respectively, back in 2006. During the late part of 2013, we said good-bye to Alfred; just a few months later, we were suddenly forced to say good-bye to Abby.

As pet sitters we often come to love your animals almost as much as you do. In addition to a cat and a dog that share my bed at night, I feel I have dozens of other cats and dogs that are also mine — they just don’t live with me. Over the years I started to take pictures of all “my animals” and use them as my computer’s screen saver. The picture that accompanies Misty’s article is one I took during the very last set of visits I made to Abby last May. I never imagined it would be my last picture of her.

(Saying goodbye is never easy. This post offers some advice for deciding if that time has come.)


Fabulous Abby the Labby
2002 – 2014

By Misty Goldman


You took the sun with you when you left us.  It rained for days after we said good-bye and even when the rain stopped, the sky stayed a cold slate gray that reflected back the emptiness in our hearts.  It’s such a struggle to write these words, to acknowledge that you’re gone, to accept the void but I have to let you go.

You were such a beauty in your shiny black fur.  Attitude and stubbornness just like a teenager.  You had an angel’s face and a devils mind.  Your mischievous streak was legendary.  From digested checks, shoes and couches, nothing was safe from your jaws as your stealthy 90 lb body would tip-toe behind me.  On our first meeting you sent me home with only one shoe, a clear message that I was treading on your territory.  But I came back the next day and the next and the day after that.  You lost interest in my shoes and you became my shadow, my buddy, my clean-up crew.  Crumbs falling to the floor never had a chance.  A lover of vegetables and the nemesis of toilet paper, you probably thought Abby was your last name since it was frequently preceded by words that can’t be printed here.

Friends and dog people always offered the same advice; “…don’t worry, Labs calm down after about five years”.  Ha!  You were not a dog to be categorized!  I think you were seven years old when you stole the sandwich from that poor guy walking down the street in front of our house.  Nine or maybe 10 when you ran away to the school and got beat up by the neighborhood dog bullies.  And the toilet paper caper went on every chance you got for 12 years!  I’m so glad you defied the stereotypes.  I’m so thankful that you were Abby.

I can still see you there, rolling in the grass with pure joy on your face.  You would always stay just out of sight.  Always seeing me but making me look to find you.  That vision of our happy, loveable pup is all we have left of you now.  I look at that patch of grass everyday and it lifts my spirits.  It made you blissfully happy even when you were in pain.  Now your pain is gone and with it our hearts but the grass is still green so we sit there in your favorite spot, missing you but smiling.  I smile because I bet that you can still see me, even though I can’t see you.

You died just like you lived, on your terms.  It was Abby’s world and the sun and the moon and the stars would bend to your will.  And so would I…every time.  I miss you shadow.


Make a List

The large, sad brown eyes of our golden retriever turned to look at me. In that moment, I had my answer.

In early November 2003, we received news that our 11-year old golden retriever Jake had an aggressive form of cancer. We had noticed a lump on the side of his nose that had grown large in a short amount of time. In addition, he had begun to experience nosebleeds. In all other ways Jake appeared and acted normal. This past January 20th was the ten-year anniversary of Jake’s death. The memory of that day is as clear to me as if it were yesterday.

It was a frigidly cold day, very windy, but beautifully sunny. The cold air helped Jake breathe more easily because the tumors had broken into his nasal cavity. Though I did not want him outside, I let him go when he asked. After about thirty minutes, I went looking for him from within the house by peering through the windows. I discovered him lying next to a Rhododendron bush in front of the large dining room windows. The bush was protecting him from much of the wind and so I let him remain as I stood watching him.

The maple tree in our front yard was always full of birds, and on that particular day it was especially crowded. I watched Jake for a long time as he watched the birds coming and going from the tree branches. His head would turn slightly to allow him to continue gazing at them as they disappeared into the sky. I had never before seen him lay in that spot nor had I ever seen him watch the birds so intently.

I was transfixed watching him, looking so peaceful, lost in my thoughts of what we were about to have to do. Then quite slowly, he turned and stared at me through the window. In all likelihood I had moved, but it was so strange because at that same moment, I was asking myself if we were really doing the right thing. His turn to stare back at me was in a way his answer – yes. It was as if he knew what was happening and what I was thinking.

As pet owners, we are often faced with life and death decisions of our animal family members. I am very grateful that early in Jake’s life we had found a veterinarian in whom we had great confidence. More importantly, we had found a man in whose compassionate company we were comfortable sharing those most painful of moments.

I am also grateful for a pet sitter Melissa Bensen who had quietly suggested after learning the news that my husband and I come up with an objective and very specific list of ways in which we would know it was Jake’s time to go. Though it was painful when we discussed the issue – for Jake was then happy following his usual pattern of begging for food, chasing popcorn tossed on the floor, and wanting to go for rides in the truck — we did create a list. Melissa’s reasoning was that towards the end we would be too emotional to be objective. She was right.

When Jake no longer stuck his nose in our lap at the sound of a fork scratching on an empty plate, or wagged his tail in anticipation of a ride in the truck, we knew his quality of life was gone. He died quickly in our arms, in less than 25 seconds.

As a pet owner, look objectively at your beloved dog, cat, bird, hamster, etc. Understand what it is in their lives that make them happy and comfortable – how do they define quality. Make sure you the owner are comfortable with your veterinarian. He or she will be there at one of the most painful times of your life. Most of all cherish that pet each and every day. Make time in your often overly busy schedule to be with them, to enjoy them. Sadly one of nature’s greatest gifts to us, is taken from us much too quickly.


Jake, Baxter and author
Jake, Baxter and author