Over the years, we as a community have taught children to always ask permission before petting and interacting with a stranger’s dog. Permission has often been granted and as a result, approval is typically expected. This is not and should not be the case.
Permission does not guarantee that a dog will not bite, react or scare your child.
The fact of the matter is, there is a third party involved who also needs to be considered; the dog. As friendly as the human or dog may seem, very few dogs enjoy being approached and touched by humans they do not know, just like us.
Dogs can be protective and aloof with strangers and while the dog may love attention and physical interaction from family and those known to him/her, it can be quite different with passing strangers or children.
Those who may have a reactive dog, a dog that has not been socialised with children or simply does not wish to have their dog be petted by strangers have the right to say “no”. It is important that if you teach your child to always ask permission, that they also are taught to understand it’s okay if they are not allowed. It’s also important to understand that even if the owner says yes, your child’s safety is not guaranteed.
At Found by the Hound, we have always taught children to “Pat with their eyes”.
We understand that even if the owner is agreeable, their dog may not be. We understand that dogs do not necessarily enjoy affection from strangers, and as a result we have seen the damage firsthand.
While it’s respectful to ask permission before petting a dog, is it really in the best interest of the child AND the dog?
Here are other ways your child can safely engage with other dogs
1. Only with permission, gently toss a treat to the dog
2. Speak to the dog; “What a good boy!” and then move on
3. Admire the dog’s attributes; by looking, not touching
4. Address and acknowledge the unfamiliar dog from a safe distance and without any expectation of touch
We understand that there are times were your child may persist. In this instance, a key indication that the dog is happy is its body language. A dog that is showing interest by coming up to you and wiggling its bottom (not just tail but whole butt wag) is a dogs cue it is happy to engage. If the dog just tries to sniff you legs and then turns away from you, it is saying no, respect the dog.
Remember, canine behaviour can be misinterpreted and can change in an instant. You child’s safety is paramount, so it is important to ensure you educate you children about etiquette around unfamiliar dogs. It is also important to respect the wish of the dog and the owner.
Pat with your eyes.
For more information, contact the team at Found by the Hound.