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Tips for Children on Approaching a New Dog

I have to admit: when I was growing up (more years ago than I care to share, much less remember), the rule was that children did not pet strange dogs. Period. It was a firm rule in our household and, growing up, one that most other children I knew also were taught. We always had dogs in our home growing up and we petted and loved them endlessly (as seen above in my photo with my first dog, Henry) but, when we met a dog we did not know, we left him alone.

Now, however, I see children routinely run up and pet strange dogs. Many politely ask “can I pet your dog?” Some wait for an answer. Some ask then immediately reach to pet. Others just run and pet without warning.

Sadly, it’s a problem that in too many cases can cause dog bites. A recent Insurance Information Institute study states that in 2012, about one-third of the total money paid out for homeowners’ liability claims overall was attributed to dog bites. According to the Center for Disease Control, 82 percent of dog bites treated in the emergency room involve children under 15 years old.

Petco recently issued a press release about this topic and, in order to help prevent accident and injury, Petco™ is sharing their method on how children can safely approach and interact with dogs.

The first thing children need to understand is how to properly greet a dog. To approach a dog walking on a leash with their pet parent, Petco Certified Dog Trainers recommend that children follow the “SAFE” method:

  • S – Stop, stand still, and turn sideways before getting close to the dog.
  • A – Ask the pet parent for permission to pet the dog first.
  • F – Fist, offer a closed fist for the dog to sniff while standing still. Allow the dog to approach you. If the dog is friendly, pet the dog under its chin.
  • E – Exit slowly away from the dog by backing up, then walking away.

To avoid startling dogs, children should not run up to any unfamiliar dog or pet the animal on the top of the head or face. Using the “SAFE” method ensures that a dog has a moment to meet a child and approach the child if they feel comfortable with petting.

If a loose dog approaches a child, Petco Certified Dog Trainers recommend that they “make like a tree” by standing as still as possible, keeping their hands by their sides or behind them, looking down at the ground and staying quiet. Dogs will most likely lose interest and walk away, but children should stay in this position until they can no longer see the dog. It’s important to remember to never try and pet a dog that is running loose without a pet parent nearby.

Parents can learn more about keeping children safe and dogs happy in-store at Petco’s Positive Dog Training classes. This 30-minute class provides hands-on tips and information about greeting both familiar and unfamiliar dogs, as well as how to care for the physical, mental, social and emotional health of animals. Petco’s Positive Dog Training rewards good behavior in a group or private setting, which results in an emotionally happy and socially engaged dog. Classes also keep dogs mentally alert by stimulating their minds while keeping them active. To find out more information on training classes, contact the nearest Petco location or visit Petco’s Positive Dog Training website.

How have you taught your children the best way to approach strange dogs?

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