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5 Essential Steps to Keep Your Dog Safe Around Toddlers


Today’s blog post is by Linda Hempler, of the popular blog, ChiChis And Me. To learn more about Linda Hempler and ChiChis and Me, visit our Contributors and Authors page.

When Out In Public

I have three adorable and loving Chihuahuas. I love to take them with me whenever it is possible. As a result, we often run into some very enthusiastic and exuberant children. Toddlers especially can be overzealous when they see a dog, especially a small dog.

They immediately want to pick up and hold the “puppy.” They will usually run toward us with that very intention on their minds. Very small children don’t understand the difference between a living, breathing dog and one of their stuffed toys at home. They will undoubtedly try to pick up and hold “the puppy” the same way they do their stuffed toys.

I secretly or maybe not so secretly love it when my Chis get lots of attention when we go places. But, when it comes to small children and toddlers, I am also apprehensive and protective.

Look at the World from Your Dog’s Point of View

Chihuahuas and other small dogs may be sturdier than they look but they can still easily get hurt by a well-meaning, exuberant young child.

Look at it from the dog’s perspective. Even though this is a small child, to a tiny dog, this child is not small. How would you feel if a 15’ giant started running toward you with their arms stretched out in front of them? I’d want to turn and run in the opposite direction. However, a dog on a leash cannot do that.

You either have to protect your dog or the dog will do his best to protect himself. That would not be a good situation at all, not for the dog or the child! You wouldn’t want your dog to bite or even scratch a child under any circumstances. But you don’t want your dog to get hurt either. So how can you keep your dog safe?

Education is the Necessary Ingredient

It is critical that you never allow a toddler to sit on a dog or tug on its fur.

Never allow a toddler to sit on a dog or tug on its fur.

Hopefully, the child has been taught at home how to treat a dog. But even so, a toddler may not perceive this tiny creature as a dog like they have at home or that their neighbor or cousin has. So, often it is up to you to kindly and tactfully show the child what they need to do.

As soon as I see that a small child has spotted my dogs, I ask them to stop and let the “doggie” come to them. Dogs are naturally curious and will soon walk over to take a sniff. Then remind them to pet the doggie nicely. Never allow a child to pick him up. If you think that it is safe, you can pick your dog up and gently place him in the child’s arms.

What Not to Do

It is also important that you do not snatch up your dog to protect him. When you do that you are in essence telling your dog that there is something to fear. Dogs read our emotions and if you seem afraid, then he knows that there is something to be afraid of. Also, by picking up your dog, he perceives himself as bigger than the threat and may lash out if the child comes close to you.


Socialization is a very important part of training any dog, but especially Chihuahuas and other small dog breeds. Chihuahuas are fear aggressive. What does that mean? When they are afraid, they will bark, curl their upper lip, snarl, growl, and even snap to scare away the perceived threat. Many other small dogs will react the same way. If however, a dog is well socialized early, they learn that children are not scary. Even if children are running toward them, they are not likely to lash out at them.

When at Home

It may get a little trickier when children come to your house. When you have friends or family over that have very small children, be sure they are supervised at all times. Even if their parents have taught them how to interact with a dog, never leave a child and your dog alone.

I’ve had well-meaning parents tell me, “It’s okay, my child is great with dogs.” Don’t believe them; people with larger breed dogs think that all dogs are the same. Their child may not have been taught not to try to pick up a dog because they’ve never really been around a dog small enough to pick up.

If you are unable to supervise, put your dog in a crate, and/or in a room completely away from the child.

Keeping Your Dog Calm

Having loud and excited children in the house, or even adults for that matter, can be overwhelming for any dog, so even if a child is allowed to play with the dog for a while — strictly while being supervised — it is still a good idea to give your dog some quiet, alone time away from the noise.




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