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.


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