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It is very important to teach kids how to interact with dogs they are interested in. Childish excitement could be interpreted as a threat by inexperienced dogs. Good kids and good dogs will have miscommunications every day. By teaching children and dogs how to interact with one another, we laying the groundwork for happy, healthy relationships between them. Take time to help your child practice meeting a variety of dogs.
Step 1: Ask the Owner
Teach your kids never to rush up toward a dog. Tell them to stop about 5 feet away and ask the owner, “May I pet your dog?”
Sometimes the answer will be no. Many dogs don’t live with kids and are not comfortable with them. So if the dog’s owner says no, that’s okay. Remind your kids that there are lots of other dogs who would love to be petted by them.
If the owner says yes, then the children must ask the dog.
Step 2: Ask the Dog – Do Not Skip This Step!
Tell kids that dogs don’t use words but instead rely on body language. Pantomime various emotions such as anger, fear and excitement to show the kids that they use body language too.
Have your children make a fist with the palm pointed down. Then they can slowly extend their arm for the dog to sniff their hand. Teaching the kids to curl their fingers in minimizes the risk of a dog nipping their finger.
When the dog is being given the opportunity to sniff, watch his body language.
Does he come forward with loose, waggy motions? That’s definitely a yes.
Does he lean forward for a quick sniff and seem comfortable? Also a yes.
Does he turn his face away from your child’s hand? Back away? Bark? Move behind the owner? Look anxious and unsettled? Growl? These are all nos.
Unfortunately some owners don’t understand or respect their dog’s decision and will drag the dog forward saying, “Oh, he’s fine. He loves kids. You can pet him.” DON’T! Do not ever allow your children to pet a dog that does not approach them willingly.