Some children are completely terrified of dogs and others completely love them. Either way your child will often have an extreme reaction when passing a dog on the street. It’s important to talk to your child about how to interact with the animal in a safe way. Here are 5 tips on how to keep dog and child interactions safe and enjoyable for everyone.
1 – How to correctly pet a dog- Did you know that you have probably been petting dogs the wrong way for your entire life! When petting a new dog, don’t make any fast or jerky movements. Slowly move your hand in to allow the animal to smell you, then pet the dog on the chest so that it can see what you are doing. Petting a dog on the head may be scary for the dog because it can’t see when the contact is going to happen. Make sure that you and your child ask permission to pet any dog that you see. Never assume that it is safe to pet any strange dog, no matter how sweet or docile it may seem.
2 – Use caution when playing with stuffed animals or eating food near a dog. Many dogs don’t know their own strength, and could knock you or your child over to get to what it wants. Even worse, some dogs become aggressive around food. Its best to keep those things hidden from the animal if possible.
3- Err on the side of caution. If you are ever afraid of a dog that you are passing, give that animal as much extra space as you can. Don’t be afraid to cross the road and put yourself in between the animal and your child. Look to the owner for cues as to the temperament of the dog. If the owner seems anxious or grabs on to the leash extra tight, that might be a dog that you need to watch out for.
4- Try not to overreact. If a dog comes too close to your child as it passes, its best to calmly ask the owner to bring his or her dog nearer. If you have something like an umbrella or shopping bags, put them out around you to appear bigger and calmly move away. Never try to hit the dog or make erratic movements or loud noises. This may scare the dog into a real attack.
5- In the event of a real attack there are some tips that might help you avoid harm. Check out this post from Cesar Milan for more information.
Regardless of how your child reacts, its important that you as the parent or caregiver stay as calm as possible. Be a good example of animal interaction for your children to follow.