Anyone with a dog, especially a small one, is very likely familiar with the following situation. You’re out walking your furry friend, and a kid runs up with an outstretched hand. You end up yanking your pup away and saying — sometimes yelling — as fast as you can, “He bites!” or “Sorry, you can’t pet him!”
It may not even be the case that your dog bites. But think about it: If some random person raced up to you, got in your face and yelled "HI!," meaning you absolutely no harm, wouldn’t you at least jump? Consider it from a little dog’s perspective. Person racing to it, hand outstretched… it’s going to scare him and possibly make him snap to defend himself.
Parents and guardians, it really starts at home. Teaching your child how to interact with animals — their own family pets, as well as those of other people — will not only help to keep your child safe but also give peace of mind to pet owners who would rather label their pooches as biters rather than get into an awkward discussion with a stranger on why it’s never a good idea to scare a pup, even when that’s not the intention.
Check out the following infographics, all of which emphasize exercising common sense.
Note, too, the very important reminder to parents and guardians to supervise all interactions, regardless of whether the dog is friendly or your child has known it for a long time. Older dogs may become blind or deaf or not have a sharp sense of smell anymore. They also won’t have the same energy levels they did when they were younger pups — and therefore might not have the same desire to play with a rambunctious child.
Don’t let children pull a dog’s tail, yank its ears, try to take away its chew toy or rawhide, or reach into its food bowl while it's eating. While teaching your child not to torment any dog ever, teach them to also have compassion for them. How awesome would it be if more kids were like this kid?
Nonverbal communication is not just for us. Dogs obviously can’t say, “Hey, you’re scaring the crap out of me,” or “You’re kind of pissing me off a little.” Learning to read a dog’s body language will not only help keep your child safe but will also be an opportunity to teach your child to gain a dog’s trust. Win-win!