The end of August means back to school. It’s also a time for our children to meet a lot of new people and their dogs.
Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to properly introduce their children to dogs and vice versa. Proper introductions can go a long way toward protecting you and your child from an unruly dog and can help your child learn boundaries and respect.
Everyone has seen someone walk toward a dog with an outstretched hand for the dog to smell. Ever wondered why people do that? Ever seen a dog walk towards another dog with an outstretched paw? People tend to take human thinking and transfer it to four legs. If only it was that easy. Too bad no one told the dogs that we were changing the rules on them and they should start doing it our way from now on.
Rule No. 1, ask the owner if it’s OK to approach and pet the dog. After approval, stand with your arms to the side, avoid eye contact and wait for the dog to approach and sniff you.
Once the dog has approached you, pet the dog under the chin or on his back. The head can be threatening or intimidating for some dogs and has been known to trigger aggression. Have you ever seen someone start to rub a dog’s head and the dog snaps at the hand? This is often caused by a reaction to being touched on the head.
If you see a dog tolerating a certain behavior from an owner, it doesn’t mean the dog will tolerate it from a stranger. In the same way we won’t allow a stranger into our home, dogs are often protective and more tolerant of their human families.
Some dogs are so happy to meet new people they jump to say hello. This is unacceptable behavior, even for small dogs because it’s hurtful to the person they jump on. If you get jumped on, immediately stop paying attention to the dog. Turn away and cross your arms over your chest.
There are other methods for large or excessive jumpers, but they should be taught by a trainer so please seek their advice. If your dog jumps on people, start now in training him to stop that behavior. He will be more pleasant to be around when he knows non-painful behavior.
Now that you’ve met a new dog, continue the positive interaction with a few more do’s and don’ts. Do talk in a normal voice. Don’t talk in a high-pitched voice as this can over-excite dogs. Do pet the dog gently. Don’t pick the dog up and hug him, he’s not a toy. Do observe the dog for changes in behavior or distress. Don’t continue petting the dog when you see he’s becoming stressed. Do discuss proper dog etiquette with your children before meeting one. Don’t allow your child to hit or kick the dog. Do thank the owner for allowing you to pet his dog.
Many dog owners enjoy talking about their dogs as much as you enjoy talking about your children so ask them questions. Our dogs wouldn’t be in public with us if we didn’t want to show them off, and personally, I can talk Mastiffs all day long.
Kathryn Leisinger is the “Dean of Wags” for the School of Wags, a nonprofit large dog rescue organization.