As much as kids shouldn’t approach strangers there’s one thing I have to say about the kids in my neighbourhood, they know how to approach people with dogs. Many times kids have come up to us when we’ve been walking Fatty and Ratty and they have acted very responsible in how they approach us and how they pat dogs.
I wanted to use this opportunity to give the neighbourhood kids some kudos, and of course have a bit of a chat about the etiquette we should be teaching kids when it comes to strange dogs.
I have to assume if you are on this site then you are likely already pretty experienced with dogs, but the list is here for any laggards or randoms that pop along needing some advice.
How to greet a strange dog
I liken a child greeting a dog for the first time to Harry Potter greeting Buckbeak the Hypogryph. You approach with caution and respect, and make sure the animal is comfortable before moving in. We all saw what nearly happened to Buckbeak when someone didn’t follow the right procedure and the Hypogryph reacted badly.
This is as much about the dog’s safety as the safety of the child. Sure a snappy dog could do damage to a pushy child, but like Buckbeak the dog can potentially come out a lot worse if it is blamed for biting a child.
So here we go…
- Never approach a dog if you don’t know where the owner is, or if the dog is alone.
- Ask the owner for permission to come and say hi to the dog. If the owner says no then don’t approach the dog, there may be a good reason why you shouldn’t.
- Never approach the dog from the back. If possible approaching from the side is best.
- Pat the dog on the back, under the chin or around the shoulders. Never go for the top of the head, as dogs can get iffy with strangers going over their face.
- Respect the dog’s personal space. Patting is one thing, but don’t get in their face too much or you may make them uncomfortable.
The outstretched hand
Many of these lists say that children should approach a dog with their hand stretched out so the dog can have a sniff. I haven’t included this step in the list because most dog trainers and behaviourists agree that the outstretched hand does nothing for the dog. The average dog’s nose is at least 25 times more effective at detecting scents than the average person, and depending on the breed this can be doubled or tripled (for example a German Shepherd has 45 times more scent receptors in their nose than the average human). The majority of dogs will be able to smell the child long before they get anywhere near the point of putting their hand out.
Do your kids know how to approach dogs? Or have you had any great experiences with kids following these steps?