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May I Pet your Dog?

May I pet your dog?

Education is the key to empowering children in a variety of situations to make smart and safer choices. This is true when it comes to dogs. I hear parents giving advise to ask the stranger holding the dog, “May I pet your dog?” We also teach to ask “Is your dog friendly?” Is this the safe advice? Why is it we tell our kids not to talk to strangers but we some how trust the strangers with dogs to be honest about their dogs friendliness and behavior?

This is a very risky. As a canine behavior consultant I can tell you that many dog parents do NOT like to share their dog’s fiesty behavior record. It is with this in mind that I suggest and recommend that parents and children become familiar with canine body language so that they can take the full situation into consideration. Here are some things to consider:

Are there other dogs in the area?

Is it a crowded noisy environment?

Are you confident that this person would tell you if their furry baby has a bite history?

Is the dog listening to the handler?

Is the dog interested in interacting?

Is it hot?

Is the dog tired?

Is he fearful?

- Are there many children wanting to pet the dog all at once?

- Is your child wound up and really excited?

- Is your child eye level with the dog?

- Does your child have food on their hands, face, or clothing?

Is the dog showing fear?

- tucking tail

- turning its head away, licking lips

- cowering, growling or shaking

- hiding behind handler

- yawning

Any of these alone or combined may indicate that the dog is experiencing stress in this situation. Consider the dogs total posture and the environment when making a decision to approach or not.

These are just some of the things that need to be taken into consideration before parents allow their children to meet an unfamiliar and even familiar dog. The key to setting kids up for success with our canine friends is providing education that will help them to recognize a safe and unsafe situation.

For more information on dog bite statistics and prevention visit Handouts on dog bite prevention are available for reprint by request.

Drs. Foster and Smith Inc.

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