Meeting a new dog can be a tricky experience for anyone but it is especially tricky for children. You have seen the delight your child expresses when they see a cute dog. What you know to be excitement in your child could seem like a threat to the dog. Prepare your child and a new dog for a healthy interaction that won’t result in tears.
5 Tips On How To Meet A Dog
1) Listen to The Owner
Say you are on a walk with your child and they see someone walking their dog. You know your child’s first instinct would be to joyfully rush to the dog. But rushing a dog could spook and scare the animal. Remind your child to stay at least five feet away from fido while they ask the owner politely, “may I pet your dog?” If the owner says no, its for a good reason. If the owner says yes, then move forward with these helpful steps.
2) Watch Your Body Language
Every good relationship begins with strong communication. It is simply a matter of discussing with your child how to show the dog they are friendly and not a threat. Teach your child to let the dog approach them – not to rush to the dog. As the dog approaches, avoid direct eye contact. Dogs may perceive direct eye contact as a threat. Let the dog sniff your child. If the dog looks relaxed and comfortable then the child should extend their hand in a closed fist. Extending the fist is less threatening than a large open hand to the dog, plus it helps avoids nipped fingers.
3) When a Dog Says Yes
Now that dog has made the first move, it is important to watch the dog’s body language. If the dog sniffs your child’s hand and then moves forward, that is a good sign. Especially if the dog’s tail is wagging and the dog seems comfortable and relaxed. If the dog leans forward, sniffs for a moment and seems a little shy, wait for them. They still may want to meet.
4) When A Dog Says No
Again, after your child has extended their fist for the dog to sniff and waiting patiently you do not want to see the dog turn its face away from your child’s hand. If the dog begins to back away, hide behind the owner, even bark, that dog is saying, “No, please don’t pet me.”
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5) Polite Petting
Even after a dog says yes to petting, they may not like how your child touches them. Remind your child that dogs have very sensitive eyes and ears. You don’t want to tug on their ears and you especially don’t want to pet the top of their head. The top of their head is a blind spot. To avoid biting, have your child pet the dog’s neck, his shoulder or chest. The slower and softer the petting, the happier everyone will be. Remember not to crouch over the dog but to either stand up straight or to squat down to the dog’s level. Keep the petting brief and if the dog backs away, that’s his way of saying he’s had enough.
Photo Credit: istockphoto.com