The world is full of dogs, and they all look like they’d be fun to pet. If your child loves meeting new dogs, teach them these rules to follow so they’ll stay safe and show respect for the dog and its owner. Tell them this is like learning to speak dog language!
Teaching Children How to Greet Dogs and Cats
Ask the Owner First
Before your child approaches a strange dog, they need to ask the owner if it’s all right to do so. Never let them pet a strange dog that’s tied up outside, in its yard, or sitting in a car. Many dogs feel territorial in these situations and feel they have to defend their space.
Let the Dog Smell Your Hand
Have you ever watched two dogs greet each other? The first thing they do is smell each other’s noses. People aren’t generally interested in having their noses smelled, so when humans meet a dog, they usually offer their hand. This accomplishes two things: it gives the dog a chance to learn your scent, thereby getting to know you, and it shows the dog that you aren’t aggressive. If your child is scared, have them present their hand as a fist. Otherwise, they can offer their palm or the back of their hand for sniffing.
Pet Low, Not High
It’s very hard for dogs to see over their own heads. Because they’re lower to the ground than we are, they have to worry about danger and aggression coming at them from overhead. That’s why, when you meet a new dog, it’s best to not try to pet it on the head right away. Start by petting under its chin, on its chest, or on its cheek. When your hand is in the dog’s range of sight, it knows it can let down its guard and enjoy the attention you’re giving. After it’s comfortable with you, it will trust you to pet the top of its head.
Teach your kids these simple tricks, and they’ll be “speaking dog” in no time!
Ask About Cats
Cats are particular animals, and it’s never safe to make generalizations about them. What one cat loves, another may hate! So if your child is meeting a new cat, have them ask the owner what kind of attention the cat likes. Is it partial to ear-rubs? Scratches under the chin? Or does it only like to have its back stroked? Get a little information before you say hello and you’ll have a better chance of making friends.