Dogs have consistently proven themselves to be worthy of the title “man’s best friend,” but that does not mean that every dog is our friend. While adults may be able to reliably spot an unfriendly dog, kids have trouble with this, which may be why more than half of all dog bite victims are kids. To help teach your kids proper safety around new dogs, here are some tips to convey to them:
Ask the owner if you or your child can pet the dog
The person who knows a dog best is the dog’s owner. They will be able to tell you if their dog is safe to pet or if you need to keep your space. However, even if an owner reassures you that a dog is friendly, be sure to follow the other tips on this list.
Do not trust just the looks of a dog
Even if a dog appears to be friendly, with a wagging tail or perked ears, they still have the potential to react and bite. Just because your child thinks that a dog looks friendly is not enough of a reason to pet or even approach a dog without being cautious.
Do not rush into petting a dog
While a dog may look or even be friendly, rushing in to pet them can startle them, causing them to panic and bite. If your child sees a dog they want to approach, make sure you approach slowly and within the dog’s view.
Do not interrupt an eating dog
If a dog is eating or playing with another dog, wait until they are done before approaching them. Many dogs are food aggressive and may bite you for trying to touch them while they are eating, so be sure to give them space until they are finished.
Read the body language of the dog
A dog that is cowering, tucking its tail, lowering its ears, baring teeth, snarling, barking, or even laying down and looking at you with “doe eyes” (when a dog looks up at you without moving its head from the ground, leaving the whites of their eyes to make a crescent) may be scared or anxious. These are all warning signs that you should give them space and refrain from approaching. Keep away if you suspect that a dog is presenting one or more of these signs.
Keep your distance if you are not certain
If your child encounters a dog they are not familiar with and are not sure if they are friendly, it is important to teach them to protect themselves by keeping a safe distance. Remember that even if a dog appears friendly, it could be dangerous. It is better not to try and pet a friendly dog than to try and pet a dangerous one.