With spring upon us, the odds of kids and dogs inhabiting the same sidewalk at the same time go up significantly. And for the most part, that's a good thing. Being outside is good for both kids and dogs.
But when kids don't know how to act when a dog walks toward them, it can lead to problems. Kids tend to want to approach dogs and will do so with far less fear than many older people. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Kids should not be afraid of well-behaved dogs. But they should be cautious.
Parents, this is where you come in. It's on you to teach your kids how to act around dogs on the street. It's not hard to do, but proper behavior around dogs needs to be taught early because the younger the kid is, the more likely they are to do something to potentially make a dog react badly.
So just how should kids act around dogs they might encounter on the street? In a word: cautiously. I'll explain.
First off, they should be taught to move slowly. Dogs react to fast-moving things - squirrels, mice, chipmunks, other dogs ... and kids. When a dog sees something running nearby, its natural reaction is to run after it. Even the most well-behaved dogs are inclined to react this way. And while a dog on a leash won't be able to actually run after a kid, it can still jump or lunge and if the kid doesn't move fast enough, they could still get jumped on or even bitten. So teach your kids to move slowly and deliberately near dogs.
Kids should also be taught to never approach a person's dog without permission. It's ok if they want to pet the dog. That's great. But they need to know to ask before they do it.
In that same vein, they need to know even if they're given permission to approach a dog, they need to be very careful in how they touch the dog. They need to be taught not to touch a dog's face, ears, tail or feet. Those are places dogs can be sensitive about and if the dog feels like they're being touched in a bad way, they're going to try to protect themselves by snapping or biting. Instead, they should be taught the best places to pet a dog are the back of the neck and back.
Finally, I'm going to again mention moving slowly and deliberately. Not only should kids approach a dog slowly and deliberately, but they should move similarly when petting a dog. Quick movements can scare a dog and cause it to snap or bite.
Parents, you need to teach these things to your kids at a young age. You don't need to teach them to be afraid of dogs. Just the opposite, in fact. They need to know dogs are not to be feared, so long as they act properly around them.
For more tips about how to behave around strangers' dogs, you can check out this post on my other blog.
By the way, I know some people will read this and immediately think, "How dare you suggest my little angel's behavior could cause a dog to bite him? He's a perfect little angel who loves dogs and any dog who doesn't love it when my perfect little angel pokes their face and pulls their tail should be put down immediately because it's a bad, irredeemable dog. It's not my perfect little angel's fault if your dog is terrible."
Know this: I'm not saying it's not a two-way street. Of course dogs out among people should be properly trained, conditioned and socialized.
What I am saying, however, is if you teach your kids proper behavior around dogs, you can minimize the risk of the dog reacting badly to them. Dogs, no matter how well-trained, are still animals and if they feel threatened, will protect themselves by running away, barking loudly and yes, biting.
So minimize the risk. Teach your kids proper dog etiquette.
If you enjoy my dog- and beer-related ramblings, you'll probably enjoy my other blog, Where the Beer and Whiskey Flow.
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