Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

Dog Body Language: 3 Ways Dogs Tell Kids to Leave Them Alone


Dog body language - leave me alone

By turning away, this dog is saying: Not now please.

Most dogs tell kids to leave them alone clearly. The trick is to teach the kids how dogs “talk”. The good news is that dog body language is often pretty similar to ours, so lets go through 3 ways both people and dogs use body language to communicate their desire for some private time.

1) Your child walks up to an adult and that adult ignores them completely.
No eye contact, no smile, no words, nothing. The adult simply pretends the child isn’t there.

Is this friendly or unfriendly?

It’s pretty rude but it’s definitely unfriendly, as well.

Many times in my career I’ve seen dogs labeled as “good with kids” who actually just ignore them. People understand the difference between the two in people. Apply that same lens to dogs and you won’t be confused. A dog who loves kids lights up around them. You can’t mistake the soft face, open mouth, wagging tail/body for anything but what it is: delight.

Ignoring is not delight; not in people and not in dogs.

2) Your child walks up to an adult and they turn away/walk away, with no comment or no greeting.
Turns on their heel or turns away from your child without a greeting or an apology – as is illustrated in the picture above.

Is this friendly or unfriendly?

The most common illustration would be if one person joins a conversation and someone else instantly turns and walks away. The message is clear. Rude and mean but clear. Less dramatic versions of this happen frequently with people moving on to other tasks and away from someone when they are ready to take a break, for whatever reason.

If a dog, even your own dog, walks away from your child, teach your child not to chase after them. Everyone, including your dog, can want time alone. And, if what your child is doing would annoy you, stop your child from doing it to anyone else, including the dog.

3) Your child runs up to an adult and they stare blankly at the child.
A direct stare. No smile, no hand outstretched, no effort of any kind is made to interact with your child: they just stare.

Is this friendly or unfriendly?

Most of us, including any child over toddler age, would recognize this instantly as an extremely unfriendly behavior – even, perhaps, a threat. It is exactly that in a dog, too. Most people assume a dog who is tired of something will walk away. Not always. A really confident or assertive dog won’t move, he’ll make you move.  People who miss this can end up bitten.

Most bites I hear about could have been avoided if the dog’s clear actions had been understood and respected.

Thank you and give your dog a pat from me.


  1. This is a actual life event. How you can tell if your dog likes children. Once was a little boy that walked up and kicked my dog. My dog did not react just a little “ouch that hurt” Well the next time under supervision the same child came up to the dog and went to walk by him the dog firmly grabbed the little boy around the ankle with his mouth and grouded. He did not bite the little boy but he held his ankle and told him in dog language, “You kicked me last time with this foot, now I am going to hold your ankle until you get the message” Don’t kick me that hurts!

    • hey linda DUH that is a bite

      • Not necessarily. A dog uses its mouth the way we use our hands. It can grab and hold without biting.

      • A dog bite is when the teeth of the dog leaves marks on the flesh, in this event their was none of this the dog hardly left any salivia on the fabic of the jeans the little boy had on,.

        • No. A bite is when teeth make contact. But there are different degrees of a bite. What is described is a Level 2 bite per the Dog Bite Scale of Dr. Ian Dunbar (skin contact but no puncture).

  2. I have raised my children side by side with my pit bulls, and now have my grandchildren around them. Childeen must learn, but the 4 legged children can learn to coexist as well. Safe bet is supervision.

  3. Unfortunately, most dog bites cause damage by crushing the tissue, not puncturing the skin (cat bites are more likely to puncture). I wouldn’t be surprised if he had bruising the next day. We also live in a society where we can’t allow our dogs to teach lessons like that. You are lucky he wasn’t quarantined or euthanized.

    • But it’s okay for the evil child to kick the dog?! If I ever caught a child doing that to ANY animal, there would be hell to pay.

      • Children who intentionally hurt others—animals are often the first to be hurt but not the last—need immediate and intensive help. Always.

    • we shouldn’t allow our children to kick dogs!!

  4. Is there a way to forward this to someone not on FB?

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