May 17-23 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. Over 4.7 million people get bit by a dog every year, and over half of those people are children under the age of 12, which is unfortunate for many reasons.
But think about it – how many times have you seen an excited child run towards a dog with hands in the air and squealing about the “puppy”? Many times, the dog will put their ears back and shrink their bodies back towards their owner, if not try to run away, which is setting up a potentially dangerous situation. Don’t force your dog to accept the child’s advances by holding him or her in place, this only increases the chance of the child getting bitten because the dog doesn’t have anywhere to escape the scary (to them) situation. Even as adults, we sometimes walk up towards a dog with our hand over their head to go in and give them a head pat, while facing them straight on. This can also be a dangerous situation.
Here are a few tips to keep you, the dog, and everyone else self when saying "hello"!
- Approach the dog (and owner) slowly, no matter how excited you are to see them or Fluffy.
- Ask if you can pet their dog if you have never met them or the dog before.
- Squat down sideways to the dog, avoiding direct (a.k.a. threatening) eye contact, and give the dog enough space to approach you at his own rate. If the dog appears nervous or frightened, don’t push it. Either stay still and wait, or try again next time.
- If she seems friendly or interested, offer the back of your hand for a sniff.
- If the dog allows you to pet her, start with the chest or chin and the go to the ears/back.
The National Canine Research Council also has some great information if you want to learn more, and there is a great poster about how to properly greet a dog on Sophia Yin's website.