My passion is education and we have got to do more to get parents to educate their children how to approach dogs.
This point came home to me again this afternoon when taking my Brady out for his afternoon walk in the park, a young girl (about 6 or 7 yrs) suddenly broke away from her father and came running at full tilt towards us. I saw what was going to happen and as he was in front of me there was no time for me to step in front of him, or stop the child. I instinctively bent down, put my dog in a sit and held gently onto his collar. The child kept on coming and the next second she had her arms thrown around my dogs neck, full tilt nearly knocking him over!
Luckily Brady is used to children and hugging, but if this had been another dog that was fearful, nervous of children, or who had not received the socialization my dog had, the situation could have been serious, with the dog ‘biting’ a child – poor dog would have been blamed, rather than the parent who was totally unconcerned about the situation and did not react at all – actually kept on walking!
How does a child approach a dog? First, they would need to practice this with a stuffy dog.
a. Never, ever, approach a dog that is not known without asking permission from the owner. It is the parent who should ask permission and ensure the dog is child friendly first.
b. Always approach a strange dog in a slight curve, walking slowly, without staring at the dog. The parent should be close by pointing out to the child the dog’s basic body language being exhibited in all these stages.
c. An alternative to this is that the child stands still, body relaxed and it is then up to the dog to see if it wants to approach. No sudden movements or shouting should occur from the child. If more than one child, then only one child at a time as the dog may not cope with more.
d. Stop a bit away, and hold a teat towards the dog, palm open, to see if the dog wants to accept the treat. This decision is up to the dog – the child must not force itself on the dog.
e. If the dog accepts the treat and appears friendly (and this is up to the owner holding the dog), then the child can scratch the dog under the chin or on the chest.
My Rules for Children and Strange Dogs.
a. Never disturb a sleeping dog. Always call the dog and let it know you are approaching.
b. Never chase a dog that is running away
c. Don’t smile at the dog – this can be interpreted by the dog as showing teeth-a sign or reactive behaviour.
d. Never approach a dog that has puppies.
e. Remember that tail wagging is the most ambivalent of signs, just because the tail is wagging does not mean the dog is friendly.
f. Never approach a strange dog without the owner’s permission. If the owner cannot control the dog and have it SIT nicely for the child to pet, WALK AWAY
g. Never approach a dog that is not with its owner
h. Never approach a dog who is confined behind a fence, within a car, or on a chain.
i. Never tease any dog by poking at them through fences or car windows or reaching your arm through to pet them.
j. Never have games of tuggies with a dog.
k. Never engage in rough play – wrestling, fighting.
l. Never put their face next to a dog, or kiss or hug a dog. Unless this is family dog and this exercise has been taught and supervised by adults, it should never happen.
m. Teach children basic signs that a dog is unhappy and may become reactive, such as growling or lip raised, head low and tail between legs, hair raised behind neck.
n. If you are in the area of a stray dog - leave that area – walk away slowly.
o. If a strange dog approaches you remain calm and motionless. Keep your hands at your side
p. Speak with a soothing voice.
q. If a dog is injured do not touch or try and help it. Go get an adult.