2017-05-09 / Front Page

Teaching children how to approach an unfamiliar dog

A child is more at risk for dog encounters because of their small size. A more aggressive dog isn’t intimidated by a child as they are with adults. Dogs are everywhere and sooner or later, kids will find themselves face to face with an unfamiliar or stray dog.

Teaching kids how to read a dog’s body language is their best defense. Most dogs mean us no harm and they are experts at reading our body language. If a child shows fear or aggression towards the dog, it can lead to an unwanted and unnecessary confrontation, even if the dog and kid know each other.

Avoid direct eye contact with an unfamiliar or stray dog. To a dog, direct eye contact is perceived as a challenge. It’s alright to keep an eye on it, but don’t stare. If a stray dog starts to walk toward you, walk away from the dog, but do keep an eye on him to see what he’s doing. Even a friendly dog can bite if we give wrong signals. Never run away from a dog, because running will activate his prey drive. Don’t kick at them or try to push them away with your hands. Teach kids to stand completely still with their arms held straight down next to their body if a stray dog approaches them outside. Stay calm and try not to tighten up, because a dog can tell if we’re frightened. Most dogs will give a few sniffs and then be on their way if they’re completely ignored.

If knocked down by a stray dog, curl up in a ball with your hands over your head and remain still and quiet. Excitement from us will create excitement in the dog. The best way to keep a situation under control is by staying in control and remaining calm.

Enter a home with a dog as if there is no dog. Even if there is a comfortable and safe relationship between kid and dog, the dog should be ignored until the greetings are over and everyone has calmed down.

When meeting someone’s dog who is unfamiliar to them, kids should be taught to always ask before approaching the dog. Never try to pet a dog you don’t know. Dogs react the only way they can and will use a growl and bite, if necessary, as a warning to us to leave them alone.

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