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Helping a dog get used to kids

Foster dog Cosmo and I have a lot in common.

We don’t like crowds or loud noises. We’d prefer to stay home most of the time. We’re not into meeting new people. We’re shy.

We both show zero appreciation for people’s kids.

But like me, Cosmo is learning to tolerate kids. He doesn’t have to like them, but he does have to tolerate them.

We happen to live on the edge of a park filled with soccer fields. These fields are popular practice spots for middle school soccer and football teams. Sometimes a large crowd gathers to watch the kids play a game. And nearly every night from late August through October, the kids meet there for football practice.

So whenever I can, I’ve been taking Cosmo out around this time. We circle once around the field, watching the kids run around, yell, tackle each other and throw things.

Cosmo generally reacts well to kids when they approach him slowly and talk quietly. But when a random kid comes charging up to us on a walk, his typical reaction is to growl or to stand with a very forward posture – ears and tail straight up. Despite the growling, I usually have to add, “No, you can’t pet this dog.”

So when we head out to walk by the mini football players, Cosmo is learning to associate good things with kids. This is because Cosmo loves going for walks.

Other than food, going for a walk is the highlight of Cosmo’s existence. I usually don’t bring food along on these walks. If I’m holding a treat he gets a bit nutty and forgets where we are. He tunes out everything around us.

Treats are a good way to distract Cosmo at times, but distracting him is not my goal for these walks. I don’t want Cosmo to tune out the kids. I want him to see the kids and accept the situation for what it is. I want him to realize that kids are no big deal. They might be loud and obnoxious, but they are a part of life and they are no big deal.

Cosmo has never once growled at the football players or the younger siblings stuck hanging around. He has never barked at them, either. He will relax and sit and stay while I pet him and tell him how good he is.

Last night we went on a group walk (Josh and Ace even joined us!), and we passed all kinds of kids. Cosmo didn’t react at all. So we are making some progress!

I can think of a few old men who are stuck in their ways, but not Cosmo! 🙂

Anything a dog loves such as food, walks, a toy or another dog are all useful when helping that dog overcome a fear. Let me know if you have any specific examples!

Cosmo is an American Eskimo up for adoption with 4 Luv of Dog Rescue.

Here are some tips for helping a dog who is scared of kids.

Cosmo the American Eskimo dog up for adoption in Fargo

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