Here’s a familiar scene: You’re at the park with your pup, and a young child wanders over, her parents nowhere in sight.
As she runs gleefully toward your dog, her hands outstretched, you wonder for a moment what will happen. You know your dog won’t hurt her, but you don’t know what this kid is going to do.
Just as she’s getting ready to lunge at your pup, her mother jogs over, laughing. “Sorry about that,” she says. “She gets so excited when she meets dogs.” To her kid, she says, “Go pet the doggy, sweetheart.”
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How many things are wrong with this scenario? I count 5:
- What’s a toddler doing in the dog park?
- Why isn’t her mother plastered to her side?
- What would have happened if the dog she was running at didn’t like kids?
- Why did her mother tell her to pet the dog without first asking your permission?
- Why had her mother told her to pet a strange animal at all?
Your Kid Needs to Learn Dog Etiquette
People, teach your children proper dog etiquette. If your child spooks a strange dog, not only could your kid get hurt but also the pet would be blamed and probably suffer greatly as a result.
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Avoid a slew of problems and take a few minutes to instruct your children on the finer points of greeting new dogs. Then model the behavior to reinforce the lesson.
5 Tips on Greeting Unknown Dogs
- Ask the pet’s human if you can meet his animal. If he says no, don’t press the issue — some dogs become aggressive with strangers and children.
- If the pet’s human says it’s okay, greet the dog with your arm out in front of you and your hand in a fist, palm down, which will save your fingers if the dog decides to bite you.
- Hold your fist low so the dog can smell it. If he turns away, leave it be. He’s not interested. If he leans in or licks your hand, you’ve been given the green light, but proceed slowly.
- Pet the dog gently, paying attention to his response. If he seems eager for more, give him a good back scratch. Keep your child away from the dog’s face, just in case.
- Teach your kid to say “Thank you” to the dog when she’s done petting him — pets appreciate politeness, too.
Watch this video for more tips:
Kids Actually Enjoy Knowing This Stuff
I’ve found that most children like this formal exchange and take their duties seriously. I can remember a young girl I met outside the market once when my sheagle, Roxie, was with me.
Her mother close behind her, the girl approached us cautiously and asked in a solemn voice if she could meet my dog. After I said yes, she made her hand into a fist and let Roxie sniff it.
When Roxie licked her hand, the girl burst into delighted laughter. I showed her how Roxie liked her back scratched, and the girl worked industriously at the task.
I thanked her mother for taking the time to teach her daughter how to approach a strange dog. Her mom explained that a volunteer from the SPCA had done a presentation at her daughter’s school, and all the children had learned how to interact with dogs safely and correctly.
I am delighted that children are learning these lessons. Parents, it’s time for you to learn, too.