Dogs are fascinating and attractive to children. However, not all dogs are excited to meet new people. Children can be incredibly intimidating for an anxious dog.
Here’s what to teach your child about meeting a new dog.
Dogs and their owners are not always interested in meeting new people. Children, especially, can be a trigger for aggression for some dogs. Some dogs are threatened by children and could lunge very suddenly.
Teach your child to ask you and ask the dog owner from a distance before greeting a new dog. Teach your child not to approach any dog if there is no adult to ask first.
Just because an owner has given permission to pet their dog does not mean the dog will appreciate an excited child rushing into its space. Teach your child to walk slowly toward the dog. For older children, teach them to look for signals that the dog is not comfortable, such as teeth bared or ears pinned back. If your child is too young to observe these behaviors, watch for them yourself. If the dog displays any signals that it is uncomfortable, tell your child to stop and back away (not turn around) from the dog.
Do not stick out your hand
Sticking your hand out for a dog to sniff is something parents have taught their children for years. Unfortunately, dogs do not see it as the polite introduction that humans intend it to be. When you put your hand in front of a dog’s face, you are invading their space. While confident dogs will not mind, less-confident dogs will see this as offensive.
Rather than putting their hand out, teach your child to stop when they get a foot or two away from the dog, and allow the dog to approach and sniff. Let the dog choose to interact, rather than being forced to play nice.
Teach your child how to touch and pet dogs. The basic rules:
- Don’t pull ears, tail or fur
- Stroke gently on the chin or chest first
- Pet in the direction of the fur
- Keep your face at a distance – no hugs or kisses until the dog hugs or kisses you
- Keep the voice calm – teaching “ah ah doggie” works well with younger children
Most importantly, be a good example
Children are mimics who are always watching, and their brains are like sponges. The best way you can teach your child how to interact with animals is by setting a good example.
Dog bites can be painful, both physically and psychologically. Help your child interact with dogs safely so that both dog and child can have a positive encounter.
If your child does sustain serious injuries from an interaction with a dog, an experienced Pennsylvania dog bite lawyer can help you decide the best course of action.