As someone who is studying to be a dog trainer, one of the things I always try to impress upon my non-pet savvy friends is that it is imperative to learn how to read the body language of a dog or a cat.
Growing up with a pet is a great way for a child to learn responsibility and to have a devoted friend for life, but I have heard too many horror stories online about parents that didn’t know how to read a dog’s body language and their child wound up getting hurt because they accidentally pushed Fido beyond their limits.
The following series of photos will help parents (and parents-to-be) learn more about canine body language. Other ideas can be to also download cool apps such as the Dog Decoder to really become fluent in what our furry friends are trying to say to us. Videos on websites such as Stop The 77 is extremely helpful as well.
The only way to help parents, children and pets live in harmony is through education, and the more people become educated about how our dogs are trying to communicate with us, the fewer horror stories we’ll read about on the Internet.
20 Walk ,Walk, Fashion Baby...
As a dog trainer , I always wince whenever I see videos online of children hugging dogs or climbing all over them because it’s clear to me (but not to these kids' parents) that the dog is NOT happy and there’s a good chance they might bite as a way to tell the kid to stop.
This photo is awesome, because as Dog Decoder points out, dogs that are super stressed out show the whites of their eyes, have their ears pinned back, and their tails tucked down. That’s not these two bully breed mixes—their eyes are bright and alert, they seem relaxed and there’s a good amount of space between the child and them. A+ for the parents!
19 Dogs Are Not Stuffed Animals
Just like people, dogs and cats need their space too. I can’t help but sigh whenever I see a photo where a pet is being crowded by well-meaning children. These dogs often look like they need a breather because being around kids can be exhausting.
This posed photo is perfect—not only does the adorable pooch get a bit of space from the children, but they aren’t hovering over him. Lili Chin of Doggie Drawings notes that dogs hate being towered over, so this is a good way for pups and kiddos to interact for a picture.
18 Make Sure You're The One Taking Them For A Walk
I always get nervous when I see little children walking dogs. To me, that’s just an accident waiting to happen, although thankfully it is not often that I see it occur. When I was growing up, my sister always wanted to walk my aunt’s dog, Buttons, but she had to wait until she was much older before she could take hold of the leash.
Kudos to the parents for not allowing their children to tower over the dogs or squeeze them tightly, as Lili Chin notes pooches don’t really like that. Both dogs show relaxed body language and are eagerly anticipating a walk from the adult owner.
17 Kisses As Sweet As A Hershey's Kiss
Lili Chin points out for owners that are just learning the basics of canine body language that in the world of dogs, forcing a pooch to interact or allowing their baby to give them kisses is considered rude. Cats don’t like it either; that’s a good way to get scratched.
I love this photo because it’s clear that the parents allowed the Boxer to make the choice to approach the baby. Two humans are supervising, and the dog’s body language seems more curious than anything else. The pupper had the CHOICE to go up to the new human and lick her; no one forced it.
16 Everyone Loves Belly Rubs
AnimalWised notes that when dogs roll on their back with bright, relaxed eyes and a big goofy grin, this is their way of saying “I’m all yours, get a move on with the belly rubs!”
One of my favorite recent memories of dogs doing this is when I was in a local park with my dog walking client Thunder, who is a Siberian Husky. A group of elementary school students politely approached and asked if they could pet him. Since Thunder is very friendly, I said yes and as he was soaking in all the attention, he laid down and asked for belly rubs. Both my Husky boy and the children were delighted with the encounter.
15 No Hugs Please, It'll Ruin The 'Do
This is a perfect example of a happy and relaxed dog. Lili Chin points out in her drawing series about canine body language that a content dog has a round face (check) and flat ears (check).
Dogs can’t talk the way we humans do, but if they could, there is no doubt in my mind that this Golden Retriever would be thanking his owners for teaching their little one the correct way to interact with pets by not hovering or forcing them to do something; she’s standing by his side with one hand on his side.
14 So Sweet I'm Getting Cavities
According to Lili Chin, one of the rules of interacting with canines is to not grab them or lean over them while you’re trying to pet ‘em.
It’s really clever of the parents to dress up their child and the dog in matching outfits while laying down side-by-side. Okay sure, the Jack Russell Terrier is probably ready to facepalm at both the cheesy pose and the cheesy outfit, but I’m sure the doggo is like “Whew, thank goodness my new human pal isn’t trying to squish me with hugs or anything like that.”
13 Parental Supervision Equals A+
I’ve seen several well-meaning but ignorant pet owners that haven’t quite brushed up on their canine or feline body language. Stop The 77 points out that this can sometimes lead to issues with their pets getting irritated with children that haven’t been taught how to safely interact with furry friends.
While I’m not a mind-reader and have no idea if this pet owner slash parent has read up on canine body language, they’re absolutely doing the right thing by a) giving the dog and baby distance, b) closely supervising the two and c) giving both affection at the same time. You go, my dude!
12 Keep Your Hands To Yourself, Kiddo
When I was a kid back in the ‘90s, we didn’t have pet-savvy folks like Lili Chin to teach us that our furry friends weren’t big fans of hugs and things like that. I fully admit that if I had been in this photo with two German Shepherds as a little girl, I would have been hard-pressed to resist the urge to hug them.
Even though the dog on the left seems like he’s a tad bit concerned about something since the ears are back and the eyes are tight, the parents did the right thing by having their child clasp his hands for the photo and pose near the dogs instead of being on top of them.
11 Pose Like A Statue
That is one happy German Shepherd, and you can tell that this pooch is relaxed because the mouth isn’t tense or hard, the eyes are soft and squinty and the ears are in a neutral position.
Lili Chin writes that the correct way to approach a pet is to not make eye contact and let them come up to you. Once they do, it’s better to pet them on the side of the face or body, since both canines and felines aren’t always a big fan of head pets.
10 Babies Being Close To Pets Is A No-No
To the untrained eye, this just looks like a cute photo of a Samoyed with a baby. To a dog trainer, this photo scares the bejeezus out of us because it could lead to a bite.
That dog is NOT happy; if you look at Lili Chin’s drawings of a shut down dog, he has the exact same tense face, tight eyes and a hard muzzle. That’s basically canine for “Someone get me the heck out of here, I don’t like this and I am feeling threatened by being forced to interact with this baby. Can we not do this now?”
9 Pets Are Not Toys, Dangit
To well-meaning humans, this might look like nothing more than a baby playing happily with a dog. For a dog trainer, this makes me uneasy because parents ideally should brush up on canine or feline body language so they can closely supervise their children and pets.
Due to the angle, I can’t see if the Bulldog has “whale eye” which as Lili Chin points out is a major signal that a pooch is stressed, but the ears are lying flat against the head and there’s clearly tension in the face. This isn’t an appropriate action.
8 That Kid Is Going To Going Flying If Fido Sees A Squirrel
Lili Chin’s drawings on canine body language show owners that when a dog is staring hard at something with their eyes piercing and their ears forward, they’re alert and ready to roll. My dog Zoe puts her ears forward and gives an intense stare the minute she sees a squirrel because she wants nothing more than to hunt it down.
It’s not a good idea to allow a child—especially one this young—to “walk” a dog. If this Lab sees a squirrel, that poor kid is going to get dragged along for the ride of their life.
7 Dogs Thinks Hugs Are Sent From The Devil
Lili Chin points out that when dogs start licking their nose or their face, that is called a “lip lick” and is a sign they are stressed out. While both the owner and the child mean well, dogs and cats, as a rule, are NOT fond of hugs because it’s considered to be rude as all heck.
Of course, unless you’re super pet-savvy, you wouldn’t know this. I didn’t know this when I was a kid and hugged my aunt’s Schnauzer/Poodle mix all the time. Now I know better, and want to facepalm at my past self.
6 This Dog's Back Is Going To Get Strained Like Batman's In The Dark Knight Rises
According to the website of the late Dr. Sophia Yin, it is a really bad idea to allow a child to sit on top of a dog as if they are a rocking horse or a stuffed animal. Not only could that aggravate the dog and lead to a bite, but dogs are NOT horses and they can’t handle that amount of weight on their backs.
Some might think that the dog licking this kid’s face is proof that she’s okay with it, but she is not. When dogs do that, it’s called a “kiss to dismiss” and it’s their way of saying “Okay my dude, please leave me alone now kthanksbye.”
5 Doggos Need Space, Please
Just like parents and older siblings need a break from time to time, so do pets. Kids are naturally rambunctious and can be exhausting to be around, so parents should make sure that their cats or dogs get plenty of quiet time to themselves.
Lili Chin’s series on canine body language notes that when dogs have their ears pulled back flat against their head and their face is tense, that’s a sign that they feel threatened. This Husky loves his human sibling, but he’s practically screaming that he needs a break and wants her to leave him in peace for an hour or two.
4 Keep Babies Away From Poking Pets' Mouths, Please
This photo gives me the chills because of how tense that dog looks. Dr. Sophia Yin’s website notes that even though unknowing humans might think it’s cute to let their child poke and prod their pet, both felines and canines think it’s rude as all heck to be jabbed like they’re some kind of toy.
The Beagle is showing whale eye, the ears are flat against their head and their muzzle is tight. All three as signs that this is NOT a happy doggo and baby should be removed from the situation ASAP before the pup takes matters into their own paws.
3 Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
The website of the late Dr. Sophia Yin urges parents to teach their children from a very young age to let sleeping pets lie and to make sure that their little ones never disturb their furry friends in their designated sleep area.
The signs of tension in this dog are evident in the pulled back ears, half-closed eyes and the fact that she’s trying to move away from the child. If this dog could talk, she’d be telling the kiddo that she’s going to poke HER when she’s trying to nap to see how she likes it—after all, turnabout is fair play!
2 Leave Pets' Food Alone
In order to prevent resource guarding issues from cropping up, Dr. Sophia Yin’s website recommends that parents feed their pets in a different room and keep their children far away from the food bowl.
Most dogs and cats are NOT going to be happy if a child starts putting their hands into their food bowl, especially when they are trying to eat in peace. But can we really blame them for getting mad? I’d be annoyed as heck if someone went up to me and started randomly grabbing at my food when I was eating dinner, so make sure to closely supervise children and teach them good manners towards their furry pals.
1 Crates And Cages Aren't Toys
If this Bulldog could talk, I’m pretty sure he’d be wondering out loud about WHY the child thought it was a good idea to invade HIS sleeping area when he does everything he can to respect HER sleeping area and give her space when she needs it.
Jokes aside, Dr. Sophia Yin’s website writes that parents should teach children from an early age not only to respect a dog’s space but to also teach them that crates and the pet’s toys are off-limits. Appropriate play, like fetch, is one thing, but like puppies or kittens, children need to learn early on what toys are appropriate to play with and which ones are not.