You would think that with the job I have I would only be surrounded by dogs and only dogs, but no no no... a few years ago something strange happened, a lot of my friends started to have human puppies, AKA babies.
So now we have a lot of little man-cubs around all the time. We love them really...
Bernard (our dog) was well socialised with young children at an early stage, but nevertheless we never EVER take risks, and we would never leave him unattended with a child, even with his mate Stanley, my gorgeous godson. We are always extra careful.
Bernard and Stanley are the same age, and grew up together. Bernard knew that one day Stanley will become an expert at ball throwing, but before they could occupy themselves semi-unsupervised, we spent a lot of time managing the two.
We get kids wanting to say Hi to Bernard all the time, and as I want to remain his safe place, I often let him decide. If he goes towards the child with no signs of stress, then yes, the child in question is welcome to engage with him. However, if Bernard walks or look away form the child, or demonstrates a single sign of stress, I will walk away with him. As Stanley often say: "Not today, thank you!!"
Dear parents or carer, If you have a child who is keen on saying hello to dogs in the street or the park, then you should let them know that all dogs are different, and it's not because one was happy to be touched that all dogs are. Also, never judge a book by its cover, or a dog by his (friendly) look.
Dog owners should also be prudent, especially if they know their dogs enjoy their personal space.
Talking about personal space, how often do you think clients ask me: "My puppy bit my nose. Twice now! What should I do?"
My answer is always the same: "What was your face doing so close to the puppy's teeth?"
Puppies enjoy their personal space (as we do), so if you come too close, they will let you know. Now as much as that little mark on your nose made by the puppy's sharp teeth will disappear quickly, you should consider what the long lasting effect this seemingly banal incident will have on the dog.
Ask yourself, what did the puppy just learn? He learnt that if and when humans bring themselves too close to him uninvited, all he has to do is demonstrate a clear air-bite, and that human will move away swiftly. Is this really the sort of behaviour we want to teach our puppies for their future? Slowly, but surely shaping an defensive behaviour in our dogs? So set up your puppy for success and make sure you don't overstep his personal space.
So if your child is always keen to go and say hi to dogs. Or if on the other hand, the child is a little scared, or unsure of dogs, here are a few useful tips that can be easily shared and learnt.
How to say Hi to a dog:
Always, always ask the dog's owner if it's OK first, and wait for the answer.
You don't actually have to offer your hand to a dog you don't know. He can smell you from where he stands.
However you should still approach carefully, give the dog time to see you come towards him.
Once you are sure the dog has seen you and is ok with you touching him, stroke the dog's back or shoulder, please avoid his face, neck and tail. People are always tempted to reach for the dog's forehead. How would you like a stranger stroking your forehead?
Teach Kids: What to do if a dog runs towards you, and you are scared?
Be quiet. DO NOT SHOUT. This will only get the dog even more excited.
Drop any food or toy you may have in your hands. This might be what the dog is after.
Stay still. So the dog doesn't run after you.
Fold your arms & look away.
If a dog knocks you down on the floor:
Curl-up on the floor & cover your face with your hand.
Be very quiet, and stay still.
Wait for help.
For all humans, big and small, DO NOT:
Pull ears or tail.
Scream (even with excitement... you know who you are).
Approach too fast, or too slow.
Approach or touch a sleeping dog. Instead, call him from where you are, and let him wake up, and come to you.
Bring your face close to his face. Stay at arm's length.
Take his toys or chews toys.
If he's picked up something that doesn't belong to him, swap it for a treat. Don't be confrontational, be smart instead.