Some of your favorite memories as a child may be the adventures you shared with your childhood dog. Kids and dogs are an iconic combination that has been immortalized in many movies like Homeward Bound, Shiloh, and many others.

As we grow, we’d like for our own children, nieces, nephews, etc. to also experience these same cherished memories. But as an adult, it’s up to us to build a solid foundation of trust and respect between our little ones and our dogs. After all, dogs are as unique in personality as children are.

Here are the top 4 lessons you should be teaching your kids about dogs.

1.       Always ask before petting a dog
When in public, or even visiting a family friend, we may encounter new and strange dogs. Most children love nothing more than to run up to a dog and immediately interact, but that can lead to a dangerous scenario. Emphasize to a child the importance of asking the dog’s owner to pet the dog before they do anything. This will keep everyone safe and respect the boundaries of the owner and the dog.

2.       Don’t approach a dog that has food or a toy
Children are most frequently bitten by dogs in one of two very similar scenarios. The first is when they interact with the dog while he is eating and the second is when he has a toy. Dogs can be possessive and a child entering their space when the dog has what he perceives to be something of value can lead to a bite or even an attack.

3.       Not all dogs are friendly
The innocence of childhood leaves many of us believing that all dogs are sociable and friendly. It can be very tempting to approach all dogs, but the fact is that not every dog likes kids, people, or even other dogs. And that’s okay! The sooner a kid understands that dogs should be given space and treated as a stranger like a human, the better protected they will be.

4.       Be gentle
Young children sometimes don’t understand that they can harm animals. For instance, many toddlers will hit animals because they think they are mimicking petting. Get hands-on with the child and show them how to gently interact with and pet a dog. This type of respect will build trust and understanding as they age. Remember practice is important, it may take several interactions before the child understands how to gently pet a dog.

With some guidance from an experienced adult, children can easily attain those sweet, priceless memories of growing up with a dog. Remember that supervision and respect are key to keeping everything safe and happy.