My mom told me about a little girl, about 6-8 years old, going up to my brother, who's the biggest, mushiest Border Collie in the world. She stuck her face right in his. When he growled in warning (thank goodness he didn't bite) the girl's mom gave my mom a dirty look.
Did I mention that they were at an agility center and the girl's mom was a trainer? A "dog-savvy" trainer? So why didn't she teach this eight-year-old that walking up to a dog, staring at it eye-to-eye, and putting her face the dog's face was a really, really bad thing to do? No! Sit. Stay! Bad girl. Bad.
Here's the thing. When a dog and a child are at eye level, the dog feels threatened. When the child is a stranger, the threat doubles. (When the parent is an idiot and lets the child do whatever it wants then blames the other party... Well, you get the picture.)
Seriously, folks, countless children are bitten by dogs because they aren't taught the correct way to approach a strange dog. Here are some simple tips that both children and adults can benefit from:
- Ask the owner if the dog is friendly. If it is, ask for permission to pet him/her.
- Once you have permission, don't crowd the dog or bend over it. Squat down, DON'T stare at it, and offer a closed fist, palm down. Let it sniff your fist and come to you. It will decide if it wants to make contact; if it doesn't just leave it alone.
- If you do look at the dog, look away quickly. Staring is a dog's way of "daring"another dog.
- Don't go near a dog that's eating, playing with a toy, or chewing a rawhide bone.
- Let sleeping dogs lie. A sleeping dog can startle easily and snap or bite.
- Don't run from a strange dog. Fold your arms and LOOK AWAY! Don't threaten it with a stare.