You Better Behave … Or Else!

I am sick of repeating myself. My kids know how to behave around dogs, but I feel like I’m constantly nagging them about how they should act. I’ve even threatened to get rid of the dog! How can I make them understand? ~ April

April: Do your kids remember to use a napkin at every meal? Mine didn’t for years. They knew what was expected, but sometimes they forgot. That’s part of being a kid. Your kids may know the rules, but it’s hard for them to be consistent and empathetic.

When it comes to teaching kids how to interact with dogs, I tell parents to think of themselves as a coach, giving constant feedback (more positive than negative) and encouraging improvement. It's far more effective than nagging and a lot less frustrating too.

Will your kids still make mistakes? Yep, every single day. Instead of threatening to get rid of the dog, please choose a different consequence, like having extra chores or losing a TV show. It’s really not fair to get rid of your dog because your kids are acting like kids.

If your kids are just being boisterous and a bit clueless, spell out the rules and consequences clearly—and follow through, over and over, day after day. I’ll be the first to admit living with kids and dogs isn’t always easy, but it really is worth it.


If you have any concern that your kids are being cruel, that’s a different scenario entirely. In that case, I would recommend rehoming a dog and then also some counseling to help the kids learn more empathetic and cooperative behavior. This is a problem that must be addressed with professional support.

About the Author

Living with kids and dogs is a lot of work! But when things are going well, a dog can be your child's best friend. That experience is a wonderful gift for any child and well worth the effort involved. Got a question? Let's talk!

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