Does your child know how to meet a new dog?

For decades, parents have been teaching their children to stick out their hand and let a new dog smell it before petting the dog. While the intentions for this myth were positive, dogs have not felt the same way.

During the summer, it seems like everyone is out with their dog. When it is time to teach your child how to meet a strange dog safely, it is essential to help them learn methods that support the dog.

Here are a few tips for teaching your child how to greed a new dog.

Where did the myth come from?

The myth teaching people to stick their hand out for a dog to sniff comes from an understanding that dogs greet each other by sniffing. However, if you watch dogs, they do not force themselves in front of another dog’s nose.

When you put your hand in front of the dog, the dog will likely view that as an intrusion into their space. If the situation stresses the dog, someone invading their space may be enough to make the dog fearful. Ultimately, if a dog feels too worried about a situation, it may act aggressively to make it clear that it wants more space.

What should I do instead?

Rather than invading the dog’s space, allow the dog to come to you. You can teach your child to stand still, let the dog sniff, and decide if it wants to continue interacting. You should tell your child to watch for signs that a dog may want more space, such as:

  • Stiff body
  • Raised hair on the back and neck
  • Squinting or tense eyes
  • Visible whites of the eyes

Instruct your child that if they see these signals, they should give the dog space, even if the owner says it is ok to pet the dog. Sometimes owners overlook their dog’s stress signals to make their dog seem more friendly. You should teach your child how to read a dog’s body language and give it space until it can relax.

It is important to teach your child how to interact with a new dog since there will eventually be times when they may encounter a dog without your supervision. When your child has the tools to assess a dog’s body language, they can avoid an attack from an overly stressed dog.

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