HOW SHOULD A CHILD APPROACH A STRANGE DOG?
A child should only be introduced to a well-behaved dog that is known to be friendly. The
dog must be under the control of the owner and on a sturdy leash. The owner then should
have the dog in a seated position.
Have the child stop arm's length away from the dog in the proper greeting position**. Then
allow the dog to make the first friendly overture to the child.
Remind the child not to pull their hand back when the dog first begins to sniff. The owner
then encourages the dog to investigate the child's extended hand and give it a good sniff.
Dogs greet by sniffing and a quick pull away by a child can give two messages. The first
might be that the child doesn't want to go through the greeting ritual, therefore they are not
interested in being friendly and/or secondly the quick jerky movement of a child pulling their
hand back might excite some dogs' prey instincts. If the dog is relaxed and indicates that it
wants the introduction to continue, then the child may open their hand and begin to gently
scratch the dog under the chin.
While scratching the dog, the child should never lean over the dog. Standing over another
is one way that a dog shows a dominant status over another dog.
A child should never try to give an unfamiliar dog a hug or a kiss. What we think of as
friendly, loving gestures may mean the complete opposite in the dog's mind. Many dogs do
not like or feel comfortable with this human show of affection. Instead of affection, the dog
may read this action as a way to sort out social rank.
Hugging the dog may make the dog feel like the child is trying to force it into a submissive
role. Kissing a dog may send the signal that the child is telling the dog that the dog is in
charge. Only the submissive dogs in a pack lick (kiss) those members at the top of the
pack. This is not so much a worry with a laid back, easy going personality. But if the dog
has any dominance tendencies then this may bring them out. The dog may then try to
enforce his position with a nip or worse if he believes the child is then being disobedient to
his will. When a child kisses or hugs a dog they also have their face in a very dangerous
location being only inches from a dog's mouth.
Keep this first introduction short.
**Proper Greeting Position: Have the child stand at an angle to the dog with one arm
hanging at their side. The other arm is to be raised toward the dog with the hand made in a
fist with fingers down. The child should not stare directly into the dog's eyes.
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Karl's Kids Program, Inc. P.O. Box 1989 Interlachen, FL 32148