This time of year is a very common time for kids to meet new and unfamiliar dogs. With the weather getting warmer, you're likely to encounter dogs at the park, on a walk or in neighborhood yards. Springtime is also when a lot of people get new puppies.
Because of this, now is a great time to talk to your kids about how to stay safe around dogs. Remember: even a friendly or familiar pooch can bite if it feels scared or threatened.
1. Always ask before you pet
Children should always ask permission from the dog's owner before petting the animal, even if they have met the dog before. Dogs can be frightened by sudden movements into their personal space.
2. Don't give dogs hugs and kisses
Hugs can make a dog feel trapped and anxious. Instead, pet the dog under the chin, on his neck or on his chest. Never tug on a dog's ears or tail.
3. If he has a bone, leave him alone
Some dogs can get territorial around bones or favorite toys. If a dog seems busy, don't interrupt. Instead, children should wait for the dog to come over and say hi.
4. Don't approach a loose dog
If children see a dog running around without its owner, they should not approach it, even if they know the dog. Instead, they should go tell an adult. The dog may be feeling scared and could get upset if approached.
5. If you're scared, stand like a tree
Some kids may want to run or scream if a strange dog approaches them. This can scare the dog, or cause him to give chase. Instead, teach kids to stand still, cross their arms over the chest, and look down at the ground. Standing still and looking away will tell the dog to "go away" without making the dog feel like it is being challenged.
Dog safety starts at home
Of course, every dog owner is ultimately responsible for controlling their pet and keeping it out of dangerous situations. But, learning these safety roles can help kids stay safe, especially if they're out playing without you around. For more information, the American Kennel Club offers a fun, downloadable activity book to help kids learn about dog safety.