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Mom, May I Pet The Dog?
June 22, 2007 - Amy Jo Hanna-Eckenrode
I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise you to know that 50% of all children in the U.S. are bitten by a dog before they even reach the age of 12. As a child I never followed the Rules of Dogdom. I always did exactly what you should never do. I’d see a dog, make immediate eye contact, rush up to it, put my face close to its face and try to hug it. I’ve been bitten so many times I’ve lost count. German Sheppards and Dalmations especially don’t like me for some reason. I have scars to prove it. I ‘m surprised I still have a face. Or any appendages.
As much as we pet owners would like to think our dogs are as intelligent as humans (okay, so some are), dogs speak a different language and when a person tries to communicate with a dog in non-dog language they run a big risk of intimidating the dog and making it feel threatened. Thus, the natural reaction is for the dog to want to defend itself. (kind of like when a strange, creepy guy approaches you at a nightclub….)
Just as you teach children to ‘not talk to strangers’ or ‘not cross the road without looking both ways’, another essential lesson to teach children is the appropriate way to handle dogs, or any animal for that matter.
I really like the following List of Pledges provided by the ASPCA:
1. I will not stare into a dog's eyes.
2. I will not tease dogs behind fences.
3. I will not go near dogs chained up in yards.
4. I will not touch a dog I see loose (off-leash) outside.
5. If I see a loose dog, I will tell an adult immediately.
6. I will not run and scream if a loose dog comes near me.
7. I will stand very still (like a tree), and will be very quiet if a dog comes near me.
8. I will not touch or play with a dog while he or she is eating.
9. I will not touch a dog when he or she is sleeping.
10. I will only pet a dog if I have received permission from the dog's owner.
11. Then I will ask permission of the dog by letting him sniff my closed hand.
Be sure to review and teach these pledges to the children in your life (or adults that still act like children). For additional information click here to be directed to the ASPCA article and a great Activity Sheet that you can print out and review with kids. Believe me, you’re doing your beloved pet a huge favor as well!