We all pat the dog! Please don’t!
Working with owners every day brings lots of stories about their problems with their dogs, but also their experiences in the community, too.
One big worry for dog owners is that children are not asking first if they can stroke their dog. I have even been in situations where parents encourage their kids to come over and pet the dogs in my care. They then become upset when I ask them not to. This is not because I am a mean old lady (and less of the ‘old’, please!). Instead I simply don’t want my dogs to be scared by a child that has been a little clumsy. In the past a child has swooped onto my dog and tried to pick him up. My dog is a good sort and very used to children, but seeing his little shocked face was horrible and told me that he was not enjoying it one bit. If the parents can’t control their children, then I have to. Even if we are nice, we dog owners are still seen to be ‘rude’ when we say, ‘No, please do not touch my dog’!
As a parent myself I know that we want our kids to be friendly and kind. Whilst we want this for our dogs too, there are risks. A child that a dog does not know, going over to ‘pat’ it on the head is NOT friendly, even though the child thinks it is. Few dogs enjoy the attention. I witness dogs simply putting up with it. I also meet owners that are too embarrassed to say no. Imagine if a stranger came up and suddenly put their hands on you?
Our poor dogs don’t talk using words, but their body language speaks for itself. Dogs draw back from unwanted contact – their ears pull back, their heads lower, they try to move away. Remember that being patted on top of the head means reaching out (scary( and touching the dog right over their eyes. Rarely a welcome place to have a stranger place their hand.
The more we take note that children often get bitten when they are being friendly, by a known dog, the sooner we can act positively towards prevention. Let’s be proactive in our community, by learning how we can all work together to teach our kids and dogs the better way to behave.