Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Parents: Teach your kids to approach strange dogs the right way

Liam the pug tries to ignore the children behind him
Liam tries to ignore the strange children behind him
On Friday, we took Liam to the Tin Shed for his birthday. We were situated right on the aisle, so there was a lot of hustle and bustle about. And there were also plenty of small children running about. While some children clearly had a bit of training about how to approach a dog, others needed a few lessons.

This is a story that could have ended badly. 

As Liam was eating his dinner, one small boy crawled up and put his hands right in Liam's food dish. Let me reiterate: This tiny child put his tiny fingers inside the bowl while Liam was eating.

At the easy end of the spectrum, he could have been inadvertently nipped while Liam was trying to grab his food. He's a dog. He isn't careful.

But at the severe end of things, Liam could have tried to defend his food by biting that child's face, hands, legs and neck. The child could have been injured or disfigured. And Liam? He could have been investigated and/or euthanized due to his "aggression."

Who is to blame here?

The parents. And there's an easy fix. It's something that takes just 2 seconds to demonstrate.

Children should ask if they can pet strange dogs. If the owner agrees, then the child should stand slightly sideways and let the the dog take a quick sniff. If the dog seems comfortable, the dog will approach. Then the child should pet the dog on the back (NOT the head) for a few moments. That should conclude the visit.

When I'm out and about with Liam, people ignore this altogether. Or they use a modified approach that is no safer. These kids rush up, yelling requests for petting sessions and patting Liam long before I have a chance to respond. And, many small children grab at Liam's tail and ears. Others run right up and hug him without saying anything in particular in advance.

I don't have kids myself, but I do know that controlling a little person can be hard. I also know that most parents encourage children to love dogs and express that love. But I don't want to be responsible for your child at all times. I don't want you to sue me if my dog knocks your child down or snaps at your child.

Instead, I want you to teach your child how to approach a dog, and I want you to come with your child during that approach.

It's only fair. I control my dog, you control your child. Everyone stays safe, and everyone gets along.

Harsh? Maybe. But safer? Most assuredly.