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Training Dogs to Socialize with Kids

Kat Miller, director of applied science and research at the ASPCA, gives some pointers for a smooth dog-kid encounter.

Know Your Dog

Dogs tend to react differently to children than to adults -- kids are louder, smaller, and squirmier. Gauge your dog's temperament, and never force a dog into a situation with a child.

Take Things Slowly

When introducing a child to a dog, warn him not to squeal or scream out of excitement or anxiety. A calm environment is best.

Prevent a Chase

If a child becomes frightened, tell her to stand still instead of running away, which might prompt the dog to chase. If the child doesn't move, the dog will likely become bored and walk away.

Anticipate Alarming Behavior

A dog that is sleeping, eating, or playing with toys can become aggressive when startled by a child.

Have Them Throw Treats

Ask children to take turns tossing treats to the dog from a distance of a few feet rather than feed it by hand, giving you room to intervene if the dog is not receptive.

Give Your Dog Some Love

Show kids how to pet your dog -- gentle rubbing of the chest or shoulders is calming. Patting the top of a dog's head can be interpreted by the dog as a sign of aggression.

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