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Teaching Kids the Fundamentals of Proper Dog Handling

 by petbucket on 22 Jul 2015 |
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Children should know how to honor the feelings and boundaries of other living creatures, whether human or not, and these conduct codes are particularly important with respect to dogs. From an early age, kids should learn what behaviors are acceptable and which are not, and that includes being light-handed when it comes to their interactions with dogs. These rules are necessary to learn whether you have a family dog or not. Sooner or later your child will interact with a dog, whether it is the pet of a another person in a supervised setting or an encounter with an unfamiliar dog in a park or on the street. The following safety guidelines are important for children of all ages to be made aware of.
 
Be Light-Handed
 
Children often don't realize how rough they may be, nor do they necessarily know that even though they're playing, the dog may not take it as such and could retaliate. Teaching children how to be mild, gentle and in control when excited and playful will be of great benefit to them on many occasions in their lives, not only when interacting with dogs.
 
When your little one is around a dog, demonstrate to them the way to pet softly. Avoid allowing them to yank on the dog's fur and ears, but instead a soft stroking of the dog's coat, or brief graze of its ears is acceptable. Avoid letting them clutch onto patches of hair, and teach them to be especially careful of and not to tug on the dog's tail, which is always a sensitive spot for a dog and best avoided. If your child tends to be rambunctious or heavy-handed, use a toy or stuffed animal to demonstrate the proper way to pet first. A real dog may not be as tolerant of grasping hands as you might assume.
 
The Correct Procedure
 
As soon as they're old enough to comprehend, you should instruct your kids on the proper and non-threatening way to approach a dog. But what exactly is the appropriate manner to approach a dog? If it's a strange or unknown dog, it's best to first approach his master and request permission. Once permission is granted, your child should know to approach the dog calmly and gradually and avoid boisterously running up to it. Teach your child that offering out your hand to the dog with the palm facing down and letting him or her sniff you is the most common and safe way to get acquainted with a dog. Let him decide how close he wants to get. While lots of dogs thrive on human attention, others are also often the type that is "shy at first, but warms up quickly," so the first couple of seconds of any initial encounter are crucial. The proper approach can encourage the dog to come closer to your child for affection, or even flip onto his or her back for a belly rub.
 
The Smell of Fear
 
Make sure you don't raise your kids to be afraid of all dogs, even though you yourself secretly may be. A parent's fear is contagious to their child, and if they see you react to any dog fearfully they will likely pick up that behavior. This may cause your kids to respond to an unfamiliar dog in an improper fashion that may confuse the animal and incite him to act unpredictably. Rather than being afraid or running away in panic, show them how they should respect the bounds of dogs and other animals.
 
Encountering a Threatening and Unfamiliar Dog When No Owner Is in Sight
 
It is critical to teach your kids to maintain a calm demeanor when being approached by a strange and possibly growling dog. Don't jump on your first instinct to scream in terror and run. In an authoritative but not overly loud tone of voice, instruct the dog to leave. If it remains, don't freak out.
 
Since dogs communicate primarily through body language, teach your child the right way to interpret their signals. A dog that is simply curious will often have its ears straight up and its tail wagging while standing in a relaxed posture. In this case, don't run -- simply walk calmly and steadily away.
 
A dog that feels threatened or agitated often flattens its ears down onto its head and has a stiff body posture, while his tail might be swaying slowly or completely rigid. Avoid making sudden movements or screaming loudly, both of which are often potential triggers for an uncomfortable or irritable dog to attack. Instead tell him to leave firmly and retreat slowly and calmly, without showing fear. Should the dog jump to attack, it is better for kids to drop to their knees with their head tucked downward and protected by their arms in a classic "turtle" posture, and to call out for help.
 
Don't Run in Fear From A Dog
 
The turtle and tree postures are better at diffusing a dog's aggression than running, which will only serve to activate a dog's reaction to "prey" behavior, and a dog which might have been satisfied just sitting and growling may abruptly follow in fierce pursuit. Even if a dog only means to play with a child, its inborn predatory response triggered by running can cause it to cross the line between playing and attacking.
 
Don't Disturb a Dog While It is Eating
 
This is an important rule kids should be educated about, especially if your dog tends to be territorial and protective of their food. Kids won't naturally know about the potential danger of approaching an eating dog, so it's wise to clue them in on the fact that being defensive while eating is an inborn tendency in dogs passed down to them from their ancestors that had to scavenge and fight for every scrap of food. In the instant a child unwittingly bothers a dog as it eats, the animal can seem to adopt an aggressive personality that may confuse and bewilder a child unaware of a dog's potential to instinctively behave this way.
 
Don't Leave a Child Alone With a Dog
 
This may seem like common sense, but a dog may be more prone to be aggressive with a child if it is missing the security of its adult owner being around. Likewise, a child may be more likely to agitate or do things to a dog they've been instructed not to, simply out of curiosity and the "testing" instinct. This may easily set the dog off and cause it to attack.
 
The Importance of Hygiene
 
Stress to your kids the necessity of washing their hands after petting or playing with a dog. Dogs are not the most sanitary creatures from a human standpoint, and germs, parasites or bacteria that a dog may be adapted to may have a dangerous impact on your child's health if they do not disinfect properly after contact.
 
The best way to ensure your kid's welfare when interacting with dogs is to educate them thoroughly on safety behaviors. Both children and dogs are naturally curious, and this curiosity can potentially cause interactions between them to turn ugly. Assuaging your child's curiosity by cluing them in on the reasons for certain safety behaviors with dogs is the best prevention for such dangers. Don't undervalue the importance of teaching your child how to play with a dog simply because you don't have a pet. Eventually they will be in an environment out of your supervision and in the presence of a dog. Prepare them for it.

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