You’ve probably already taught your kids the first safety rule: ask the owner before petting a strange dog. But did you know there are 3 more rules that are even more important to your child’s safety? Keep reading to find out what they are.
1. Ask the owner
You’ve already got this down, but for the sake of being thorough, let’s repeat it. The owner should be able to tell your child if the dog is on a training task or is not safe to pet. It’s their dog, their rules.
2. Ask the dog
Now we get to the part most kids (and adults!) don’t know about. Always ask the dog if he wants to be petted. Since the dog can’t exactly speak English, how do we do that? By speaking the dog’s language of course! Invite them into your space with friendly dog body language by turning slightly away and backing up a few steps. If the dog comes up to you, you’re in business. If not, that’s okay. It’s the dog’s choice. And the dog has the last word, even if the owner says they love kids. Many times the owner doesn't understand the dog's language well enough to tell how the dog really feels about kids, and that could be putting your child in danger.
3. Pet the right way
If the dog comes up to your child, they should pet in gentle, one-handed strokes from the dog’s collar to his tail. Using two hands can make a dog feel trapped and defensive. Petting from collar to tail keeps your child’s hands away from the dog’s teeth – super important!
4. Ask the dog again
After a few seconds of petting, pause to see if the dog walks away or leans in for more. That way, you know for sure the dog is truly enjoying the attention, not just tolerating it. If the dog walks away, that’s okay. If he leans in for more, keep petting. Then pause again to see if the dog wants more.
It’s that easy! Practice putting your own dog on leash and coaching your kids through the greeting steps. Then practice with friends’ and neighbors’ friendly dogs. By the time your kids meet a strange dog in public, they’ll be ready to greet – or not to greet. Whatever the dog and owner say!
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