I made the above post a few days ago on our facebook page and was honestly quite shocked that so few people seemed to understand the problem so I’m going to take the time to go into more detail here.
- ALWAYS RESPECT THE PERSONAL BOUNDARIES OF OTHERS Each dog handler has the right to decide if he/she would like to allow you to approach his/her dog, regardless of how you feel about it. Whether a dog appears friendly or not, if the person holding the leash is trying to walk AWAY from you, let them go. They clearly don’t want to have an interaction with you and the reason should be of little consequence; this is just common courtesy and respecting the personal space of others. Teachable moment: explain to your child that it’s important to allow others the right to their autonomy. Even though a dog may be cute and happy looking, it is not okay to force ourselves upon others or insist on interacting with their pets, property, or even themselves. For example, if you approach someone for a hug and they back away, you should stop trying to hug them.
- DO NOT TRUST YOUR CHILD’S SAFETY WITH STRANGERS We all think we know our dogs better than anyone else, and maybe we do – however – it takes a mere fraction of a second for a dog to bite. Maybe the stranger walking by with the sweet looking dog didn’t notice that Fluffy’s ear infection flared up right before the walk. When you asked, the owner joyfully invites you and your child over to pet Fluffy. Now your 1 year old child reaches out to give docile Fluffy an ear scratch and – CRUNCH- the toddler now has a nice bite mark on her face because Fluffy communicated her pain with her teeth, as dogs often will. Let’s say a man that you have never met before comes walking up to your 3 year old daughter and announces, “I’m great with kids, mind if I pick her up?” Would you allow his hands to get near your baby girl? We’re guessing not. With that in mind, we strongly urge people to not trust that a dog will not bite simply because the handler says that the dog is great with kids. Teachable moment: We believe children and dogs benefit greatly from interaction in controlled and safe environments. Small children, who are at the greatest risk of serious injury in a dog bite, should never be allowed to approach an unknown dog regardless of the circumstances. There are much safer ways to allow your young child to interact with dogs responsibly and with the smallest risk possible such as with dogs owned by friends or family. This is a good time to instill in your child that it’s okay to look but not touch. Ask the handler to show off any tricks the dog knows that your young one can watch from a safe distance. Ask if you can take a photo of the dog to look at together later. Ask what the dog’s favorite treats and games and toys are – these are all ways that you can foster your child’s interest and love of pets without actually coming into direct contact with a dog you do not know.
- THERE IS ONE KIND OF DOG THAT WILL NEVER BITE A CHILD – A PLUSH DOG! We love these cuties from our pals at Charlie Dog & Friends Teachable moment: A plush dog is a great tool to aid in teaching a child how to properly approach and touch a dog. Getting your youngster a plush dog and using it to demonstrate how to pet gently will help show your child that dogs appreciate calm and soothing touch. And if your child REALLY needs to hug a dog, a plush can take it! Allow your small dog lover to hug the plush as much as he wants while explaining that real doggies prefer pets to hugs. If you have a child that often asks to pet dogs in public, bring along the plush dog as a stand in to hold when a real dog walks by.
- YOU ARE THE FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE IN PREVENTING DOG-BITE RELATED INJURIES AND FATALITIES IN CHILDREN Because of this fact, you need to be open to new information. What we thought we knew 20 years ago, doesn’t hold water today. Educate yourself on the currently recommended protocols for child and dog interactions and share this information with others as well. Teachable moment: Study these two posters very carefully, they could save your child’s life! Empower your child to spread the dog safety message to others as well by offering to share these posters with your child’s teacher and classroom.
- PLACE SAFETY ABOVE ALL ELSE If a dog owner is insisting that your child pet their dog, or becomes argumentative when you decline, social niceties can be discarded. A person’s potential hurt feelings are nothing compared to potential physical injury from an unsafe interaction. It’s okay to say, “no thank you” and move on, and it’s okay to teach your child that they can decline an invite to pet as well. Teachable moment: Empower your child to stand up for their own personal boundaries and respect for their bodies by letting them know that they do not HAVE to approach a dog when a handler tells them it’s okay to do so. Just as the handler has every right to deny someone’s approach to their pet, you have every right to deny a handler’s request to have your child (or yourself) approach their dog.
We fully support and encourage children to interact with dogs of all breeds in a safe and responsible manner and urge parents to take every available precaution to ensure the safety of both kids and dogs when socializing together and hope this post has helped shed some light on why caution with unknown dogs is so important.
~ Pit Bulls Against Misinformation