My son Josiah loves dogs. That’s a good thing when you’re the son of an animal care specialist. He learned early on what I do for people and their pets and he absolutely loves it.
Sometimes, though, I am concerned about his safety. Most of the dogs he’s interacted with are very friendly. But there is always a possibility a dog could bite him if he’s not careful.
As a former veterinary technician in the Army, I remember working with one of my fellow soldiers to put together a presentation for some elementary school students to teach them about dog safety. Here’s some things to keep in mind as you teach your children dog safety.
- Body language says a lot – Is the tail tucked between the legs? Are the ears drawn backward? Is the dog growling or baring its teeth? If you notice any of these behaviors, do not approach the dog. A dog showing these signs is apt to bite.
- Always ask permission – When Josiah sees a dog, his first instinct is to run up and pet it. I remind him to ask the dog’s owner for permission to pet the dog. Also, I suggest that he walks instead of runs because running up on a dog could startle it and ignite the fight or flight response.
- Greet the dog – Offer your hand for the dog to sniff. This is a friendly way of saying hello. There’s debate in the dog trainer world about whether to offer a fist or an open hand, palm up or palm down. I recommend using a fist and offering the back of your hand. With fingers extended, you risk losing fingers should the dog decide to bite instead of sniff.
- Pet the dog – Once you have greeted the dog and it appears to have accepted you as a friend, gently pet the dog.
Use these suggestions any time you meet a dog when you go to the park.