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Teaching Kids About Approaching Strange Dogs

What do you say when a kid asks, Can I pet your dog?

I love when kids ask if they can pet my dog Ace, because he’s great with them and he seems to enjoy the attention.

He also doesn’t jump on them. He sits and knows to be careful and gentle.  (He does try to lick their faces, however!)

On the other hand, when I’m walking a dog that is NOT good with kids, and children ask “Can we pet your dog?” I say “NO” in a firm voice and keep moving.

This has left some kids standing there shocked as though they’re about to cry, which is kind of hilarious.

But, I don’t want them to get bitten (obviously), and I can’t always stand around explaining why.

I’ve even been in startling situations where I’m walking dogs that will bite and the kids are actually running after us!

A nightmare, right?

How to teach children about approaching dogs safely

Teaching kids about approaching strange dogs

Since my dog is good with kids, I try to use this as a teaching opportunity.

When children ask if they can pet my dog, I’ll say things like:

“Thank you for asking first because not all dogs are friendly.”

But maybe I should really say “Thank you for asking first because some dogs will bite.”

I don’t remember anyone telling me that as a kid.

I also say, “Don’t put your face up to his face because that might scare him.” (It won’t scare my dog, he loves it! But it could scare other dogs.)

But again, I think I should be more clear: “Don’t put your face up to his face because he might bite.”

I also say:

“Pet his back.”

And also:

“It’s a good idea to ask your mom or dad first before petting a dog. Then ask the dog’s owner.”

Because, I don’t know about you, but do you really trust most dog owners in general to make the right choices?

What else is good to teach children about strange dogs?

I think it’s good to teach them:

  • Not to stare at a dog.
  • Not to run or squeal near dogs.
  • Not to charge up to a dog head on but to approach from the side and show them “like this.”
  • Not to pet a dog right away but to let him sniff you first (I remember my dad teaching me this).

When a child just won’t leave your dog alone

Have any of you been in situations where kids just would not leave your dog alone?

This has happened to me twice. Once with a group of 7-year-old boys or so. They were very brave in their little group and did not get the hint that my foster dog would bite.

I had to raise my voice: “Do NOT pet this dog. He bites!”

And even then, I had to physically reach out and block a boy’s hand, and he goes, “the dog tried to bite me!”

Oh, really? What a surprise!

Saying a dog bites does become an invitation to some kids (and adults), like it’s some sort of challenge.

Because of this, I’m always ready to physically each out and block people’s hands when I’m walking certain dogs. And obviously I keep moving away calmly.

How about the rest of you?

Am I missing anything?

Do you have kids? What do you tell them about approaching dogs?

Related posts:

Ever wish people would give your reactive dog space?

Should children be allowed in dog parks?

How to prevent a stressed dog from biting

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