Stranger Danger Applies to Strange Dogs

Stranger Danger Also Applies to Strange Dogs

Sometimes kids’ natural affection for dogs can get them into trouble. Your child needs to understand that not every dog is friendly or safe, and that even the cute ones can be dangerous. There are several simple precautions for your child to take when approaching or being approached by strange dogs.

Unattended Dogs

Unattended dogs are never to be approached, followed, or touched by your child. If your child does run across an unattended dog, he should turn quietly and calmly walk away, even if the dog appears friendly. He should not, under any circumstances, run, scream, stare at, or call the dog, or try to get the dog to fetch a stick. The first thing your child should do if he is pursued by a dog is to become a tree — in other words, be perfectly still, with his “branches” (arms) wrapped tightly around his body. Your child should look up, not at the dog. If a dog knocks him down aggressively, or is growling or snapping, your child should curl up into a tight ball with his fingers laced on the back of his neck.

Making New Friends

Children should be instructed to always ask before petting a strange dog, both out of safety and as a matter of politeness. New dogs, even those described by their owners as friendly, should be handled initially with caution. Along with adult supervision, the child should allow the dog to smell her closed fist first before attempting any petting. Petting, if it happens at all, should be limited to a few quick scratches under the chin or on the chest to start, not over the dog’s head.

The no-touching-unattended-dogs rule doesn’t stop at strange dogs. It extends to dogs your child knows belonging to friends, neighbors, and family members. He also should not reach through or over a fence to pet a dog, even if the dog knows him and is wagging his tail.

Children should never attempt to hug or kiss a dog they don’t know very well, and even then it’s often a risky proposition, as many dogs do not perceive such a display as affection but as aggression. Adults present should monitor the interaction closely, watching the dog for freezing, showing the whites of the eyes, hard staring at the child, or soundless lip curling — all can be indications that a bite is about to occur. If the dog seems wary, nervous, or uncomfortable, don’t allow your child to go near it, and particularly should not pursue it if it attempts to get away.


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