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Teaching Kids to Say Hi to Unknown Dog

By Brandi Barker
Updated: 2010-02-10 12:18 AM 14569 Views    Category: Outdoor and Travel
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Many dog lovers' initial response when seeing a dog walking towards them is to say hello while bending over and petting their new friend.  This innate human behavior can send many dogs running for cover or even put them on the defense. Children tend to move more quickly, make higher pitched noises and touch dogs more obtrusively than grown-up humans. For that reason, it is even more important to follow a few rules to keep peace in the neighborhood, be kind to our furry friends and to prevent dog bites.

Rule #1: Always ask permission to say hello. This sounds overly simple but I cannot express how frequently children race up to pet my dog. I have socialized him to love people but tell them, "he's very friendly" in hopes that the next time they see a big lunky Lab that they will ask.

Rule #2: The best way start a good interaction is to have the child approach slowly and let the dog sniff their hand. It gives the dog time to feel comfortable with your little one and gives the child a task. Conversely, running mock speed at a dog can be a very scary for some. When flight or fight are a question, it is best to be on the safe side.

Rule #3: During the interaction, if the dog backs away or shows any signs of fear or tension, do not force it. That dog is clearly communicating disinterest and cornering the dog can result in a negative situation for dog and child. Additionally, do not allow your child to boink a dog on the head, grab around the neck, or lean over. I have seen many dogs retreat from these actions. Tell your child to pet the dog gently so they learn kind interaction with all animals. I praise children when they use a soft touch on my aging dog and they love the praise. Positive reinforcement works for many species.

Rule #4: Follow the advice of the dog's guardian. If the person holding the leash asks you to hold on a moment while they get their dog in a "sit", they are doing you a favor by preventing muddy paws from landing on your child's shoulders. Additionally, there are some very sweet but shy dogs out there who would benefit from more positive interactions. Allowing that pooch to take a treat from your child's hand can really help boost doggie confidence. Giving kids a couple tips on how to interact with dogs they do not know will keep them safe, it only takes a moment to steer them in the right direction.

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With the last name “Barker”, Brandi was destined to work with dogs! A lifelong animal lover; she formally began training dogs in 2001 when she completed her apprenticeship at the Anti-Cruelty Society. In the classroom, she honed her interpretation of canine body language, developed a toolbox of effective behavior modification techniques and fine-tuned her communication skills with dogs and people while only using reward-based techniques. Brandi completed her Master's degree at DePaul University in Developing Behavior Management Practices to Enhance Understanding in Human/Animal Relationships and is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer. Brandi's unique achievements gave her a solid foundation in animal learning theory, ethology and operant and classical conditioning. She uses this knowledge in conjunction with the active listening, relationship development and creative problem solving skills she acquired from a decade in the corporate world. Brandi is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and her philosophy incorporates attainable goals into every day life with a lot of patience, fairness and fun…for humans and dogs.
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