Upon seeing me walking my two Rottweilers, respectively weighing 98 and almost 100 pounds, many parents will clutch their kids close and walk to the other side of the sidewalk. Of course, they do not know my dogs are very friendly and have been socialized with children since early puppy hood. In fact, the kids that know my Rottweilers very well, love to pet them and know they will get lots of licks and kisses in exchange.
Things change dramatically though, when walking dogs I am rehabilitating that belong to other breeds. Labradors and Golden Retrievers are assumed by many parents to be automatically child-friendly. Consequently, parents do not intervene when their children flock up towards me in hopes of petting the dog. They are quite surprised though, when I make a swift about-turn and tell them that the dog in question is not ready for social interactions.
Things can often be deceiving in the dog world, and belonging to a ”child-friendly” breed does not automatically mean the dog lives up to its reputation. Virtually all dogs have the potential to bite, and even the nicest ones may have their ”bad moments” if approached in the wrong way, in the wrong place, and at the wrong time.
Study Says Kids Are Very Unprepared When it Comes to Doggie Manners
A survey conducted by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, reveals that 43% of children between 5 and 15 years old failed a simple dog-bite prevention test. This is quite a lot if you think that there were 300 parent/guardian pairs tested and the test was quite basic. These statistics help explain why, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year. Among these millions, a significant amount are children between the ages of 5 and 9.
As much as these statistics sound like bad news, the good news is that 92% of the parents actually passed the bite-prevention test in flying colors. This clearly suggests that parents are not properly passing down their knowledge to their children. Children should be taught to always ask owners if a dog can be pet, and if no owner is around, children should not pet the dog in the first place.
Important Doggy Manner Basics Parents and Children Should Know
The Centers for Disease Control recommend to never approach an unfamiliar dog, but should a dog decide to approach, the best option for a child would be to ”stay still as a tree”. Direct eye contact should be avoided and running away or screaming should be out of question.
Dogs who are sleeping, eating, or playing with a toy should never be approached: many dogs are resource guarders and may turn defensive in fear of their possessions being taken away. Dogs who are tied up in a yard, or inside a car, can be territorial and protective of their areas. Children should also be taught to never approach a mother dog with puppies, since protective instincts quickly kick in.
Children should be warned to never hug a dog. A dog may appear to be friendly and cuddly, but Martin McKenna, author of the book ”What’s Your Dog Telling You”, warns that to a dog hugging is more like ”putting a dog’s head in a headlock”.
Knowing a dog’s body language is key in preventing dangerous situations. A dog who dislikes being hugged will very likely lick its lips, or blink to manifest its discomfort. A dog exhibiting such body language is making a clear statement, ignoring these signs may lead to disasters. “Dogs don’t like being hugged”, concludes Martin McKenna in an interview to the Herald Sun. “When we think of hugging, we think of it as a human thing, but in the dog world it’s seen as a fight.”
Click here to assess your child’s knowledge about dog-bite prevention.