You see it all the time when walking your dog in the park or around your neighborhood. Kids see you coming and they get this excited look in their eyes and squeals of delight erupt from their mouths. As a dog owner, this can either be a time of joy, or a time of apprehension. As a parent, the same is true.
Dog owners may think
Will this child know how to approach my dog? Will she ask to pet my dog? Scream? Jump? Tackle?
Parents may think
Will this dog be happy to see my excited child? Will the dog run? Bite? Lick? Cower?
All of these thoughts run through your head in a matter of seconds, and then the dog and child are face-to-face. What happens now depends on how well you, as a dog owner, know your dog and how well you, as a parent, have prepared your child for situations like this.
Dog Owner Responsibilities
If you plan to take your dog on walks…which I highly recommend, you need to be prepared for situations like this. If your dog is not comfortable around children or strangers, there is always a possibility that he may have a negative reaction (either bite, growl, or run). If this is the case, you need to move to the other side of the street and have a good grip on your leash. If it is not possible to avoid walking past the child, move to the side, and have your dog sit. Make sure to warn the oncoming child and parent that your dog does not wish to be pet.
Even if your dog is great with children, it is still a good idea to have him stop and sit while you wait for the child to approach. You should let the child know that your dog is friendly, but she should kneel down and have your dog sniff her hand before she tries to pet your dog. If there is any indication that your dog is unhappy (cowering, growling, or backing away), then move on with your walk and let the child know that now is not a good time.
Parents should prepare their children for meeting new dogs in the neighborhood. Let them know that not everyone owns a dog that can be friendly with strangers – and that is okay. Make sure they understand that they should ask the dog’s owner if they can pet the dog. If the owner says it is okay, they should still approach the dog hesitantly. Just let them know that they should get down to the dog’s level and hold out their hand (in a fist) for a good sniff. Now, they should see how the dog reacts. If the dog licks their hand, and/or wags their tail it should be safe to pet the dog.
If the dog backs away or growls, it is not a good idea to pet the dog (even if the owner says it is okay). Make sure your child understands that if the dog reacts this way, or the dog’s owner says it is not okay to pet the dog, they should just keep walking. Some dogs are just not used to being around children.
If your child comes upon a dog that is without it’s owner, they should not approach the dog and let an adult know about the dog immediately.Image: Tobyotter