Do you have a young animal lover? Are you asked to pet every dog you come across at the pet store, park or neighborhood? Warm climates invite everyone to enjoy the great outdoors, especially dog lovers! When you are out and about with your child is it enough for them to ask an unknown adult if they can pet their dog?? Is this safe? What are you really asking this person? Here are some things to think about when you encounter an unknown dog/human team while you are out. Keep these in your mind if you allow your child to interact with an unfamiliar dog:
1. Are there other dogs in the area?
2. Is it a crowded noisy environment?
3. Are you confident that this person would tell you if their furry baby has a bite history?
4. Is the dog listening to the handler?
5. Is the dog interested in interacting?
A. Is it hot?
B. Is the dog tired?
C. Is he fearful?
6. Are there many children wanting to pet the dog all at once?
7. Is your child wound up and really excited?
8. Is your child eye level with the dog?
9. Does your child have food on their hands, face, or clothing?
10. Is the dog showing fear?
- Is he tucking his tail?
- Is he turning his head away and licking his lips?
- Is he cowering or growling?
- Is he hiding behind his handler?
Most dogs are friendly and eager to greet people. Children however often can be overwhelming to even the most tolerant of dogs. If you do decide that you would like to allow your child to interact with a dog, I encourage you to offer your closed fist and watch the dog’s response to you first. If the response is favorable, wagging, soft eyes, and general comfortable response then remind your child how dogs like to be approached.
1. Sniff closed fist.
2. Pet alongside head instead of on the top.
3. Avoid direct eye contact
4. Use a friendly voice to talk to the dog.
5. Follow handler’s instructions to be sure of success. Many dog handlers will have their dog lie down or sit to be greeted for children.
6. Respect when the dog has had enough.
7. Save bear hugs for teddy bears as this is very uncomfortable for dogs.
8. It is not a safe idea for a child to hold a dog’s leash.
9. Thank the handler and the dog for the visit.