How to Approach a Dog

How to Approach a Dog

Throughout 2015, we will regularly release blog and media items that relate to educating readers, but more particularly children, in how to live in harmony with dogs that enter their lives. This article is aimed at providing parents, carers and teachers with the information required to teach children how to approach a dog.

Why teach a child how to approach a dog?

Children have no natural fear of animals, only learnt ones; they do however possess a natural curiosity about animals. Most children have positive encounters with dogs; these positive encounters create associations and learned behaviours. Teach a child how to approach a dog

Here’s a fictional example.

Little Mary’s gran has a dog called Fido who is balanced and socialised. All of their time together is controlled and managed, as a result they have a great relationship based on mutual trust and friendship. Mary can hug Fido, feed him treats and play with his doggy toys. All of little Mary‘s experiences of dogs have been with Fido; they have all been positive and as a result she is very enthusiastic about petting dogs.

Based on the above, can little Mary be expected to approach and interact with other dogs in the same way she does with Fido?

The answer is unequivocally NO.

Little Mary has created an association between dogs and good experiences. She has also learned that dogs can have their space invaded and that she can give and/or withdraw their food and possessions. She will continue to approach and interact with all dogs in the way she does with Fido. In most cases this will be fine, but in some she may be at serious risk of being bitten by an unsocialised, nervous or possessive dog. All children must be taught how to approach, read and pet dogs safely.

A step-by-step guide to approaching dogs

The first thing to teach a child is that all dogs are different; some dogs are confident, happy and well socialised, whilst others can be scared, nervous and unpredictable. Some are happy and confident in some situations, yet scared and nervous in others. Therefore, each dog’s response to being approached will be different. Let the dog approach you Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide to teaching children how to approach a dog. These each step relate to the poster that is attached below. This poster can be downloaded and printed to display in a child’s bedroom, a school classroom or printed as a handout. Please use the poster and the lesson text together as a complete teaching aid. You should teach your child to follow each of these steps every time they approach a dog:

  • Never approach a dog that is not under it’s owners control – This includes dogs that are off lead in the park, dogs that are tied up outside shops or schools or even your neighbours dog in the front garden.
  • Always ask the owners permission before approaching a dog – Be calm and polite when asking permission. Do not excite the dog. A dog’s owner will know how their dog reacts to being approached. If the owner says “No” you should thank the owner and walk away calmly.
  • Let the dog come to you – If the owner agrees to being approached, gently offer a hand in the direction of the dog. If the dog wants to meet you it will come and sniff your hand. If the dog doesn’t come to you it probably doesn’t want to be petted, you should thank the owner and walk away calmly.
  • Read the dog’s signals – A dog cannot talk, but it can give very clear signals to tell you if it is comfortable with your approach. Before you start to pet the dog you should look for the following signals:
    Positive (Good) Signals: Wagging tail, open mouthed, tongue out, rubbing against you, sitting or lying beside you, climbing up your leg.
    Negative (Bad) Signals: Moving away from you, cowering or retracting from you, barking, showing their teeth, tail tucked between back legs, tail up and curved over like a scorpion’s tail, fur along the ridge of back standing up.
    If you are receiving only positive signals you can move on to petting the dog. You should continue to monitor these signals throughout your interaction with the dog. If at any point you see any of the negative signals you should slowly step back from the dog, thank the owner and walk calmly away.
  • Petting the dog – Dogs should be approached for stroking from the side. Gently stroke the fur on their back in a head to tail direction or in the area of the dog’s chest between it’s collar and front legs.
    Never lean over the top of a dog. Never stroke the top of a dog’s head. Never pull on or play with a dog’s tail or ears. Never grab or hug a dog
    You should continue to read the dog’s signals throughout your interaction. If at any point you see any of the negative signals you should slowly step back from the dog, thank the owner and walk calmly away.
  • Say “thank you” – After petting the dog slowly step back from the dog, thank the owner and the dog and walk away calmly.

Download this text as a pdf to print and use when teaching your child How to Approach Dogs – Lesson Text

Teach a child to approach a dogDownload this poster as a pdf to print and use whilst teaching your child or to display in your home How to approach a dog – Poster

Practice and reinforce

By following the above steps to introducing a child to a dog, you are creating a new learnt behaviour. You should teach your child to follow these steps each and every time they approach a dog, even if it is your own dog in your own house for 2 reasons:

  • Repetition reinforces the new behaviour to a point where it becomes natural. Your child subconsciously become a good reader of a dog’s signals and be able to assess the risks in approaching it.
  • A dog’s reaction to being approached will change depending on many factors. A dog you approached and stroked on your way into the park may have had a fight with another dog and become scared and nervous whilst you had a picnic. A dog you see and stroke every day may be feeling unwell and not want to be stroked. As a result, you should always restart the steps if you wished to re-approach a dog.

We hope this guide provides you with the tools required to teach your child how to approach a dog.

We are keen to hear your views and comments on the above article, please feel free to add them below.

Contribution by Matthew at Heppiness

Teaching Responsible Dog Ownership

Teaching Responsible Dog Ownership

During the month of February The Way of the Dog Ltd visited AIM Education, Stanningley, Leeds, to teach young people about responsible dog ownership and the impact that status dogs are having on our communities.  During both visits Olla was the main attraction with the young learners interacting with him at every opportunity.

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AIM Education is a new non-for-profit organisation, which has been set up to create opportunities to overcome inequalities and enrich the local community.  The organisation works with young people who are referred from schools, in need of a different educational route.

This particular dog project was a working collaboration between Carl Harrison (Director, Aim Education) and Shaun Hesmondhalgh.  Carl is a former member of the Royal Air Force Regiment and a former teacher and colleague from Bolton College.  A two pronged approach allowed this project to get off the ground with Carl securing funding from concerned stake holders and Shaun developing and delivering the workshop.

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The youngsters engaged from the start using their imaginations and their personal experiences to bring creativity and realism to the sessions.  They presented firm and responsible views on how dogs should be treated and provided real accounts about horrific and fatal incidents concerning status dogs.  The experience was enlightening and it was both interesting and concerning to hear the different views that the young people have concerning the motivations for owning a dog.

M1460009To conclude the workshop an obstacle course was set up and the learners challenged Olla to a race.  After much laughter and excitement the score finished 2 – 2 as the final run off was declared void due to shortcuts being taken by both the youngsters and the dog.  The whole workshop was a resounding success, a remarkable experience, and it was fantastic to see Olla, who has had his own emotional journey, interacting in a relaxed and comfortable manner with the young people of Leeds and Bradford.

The Way of the Dog Ltd is a professional training provider and dog behaviour consultancy and is able to deliver bespoke educational workshops to youth and community groups seeking to raise awareness regarding responsible dog ownership.  Please contact Shaun Hesmondhalgh at The Way of the Dog for more information.

Some things to consider before buying a puppy.

Some things to consider before buying a puppy.

Back in September the Kennel Club organised the National Puppy Awareness Week (PAW), seeking to raise awareness and promote the responsible breeding and trading of puppies here in the UK.  Finding the right puppy can be a difficult task and locating a suitable breeder can be something of a lottery._49044533_dogs

 

The Kennel Club’s bid to raise awareness and address the issues that arise as a result of puppy farms and also the inappropriate importing of puppies is admirable and a responsible step in the right direction.  However, it is important that we appreciate that these issues need our full-time attention and appropriate action if we are to make changes.

 

This week BBC News Manchester ran the following story, “Pedigree dog cruelty: Bury breeders banned for 10 years.”  The article went on to explain how profit was the primary consideration over welfare. _70321563_rspca137dogs

 

Last April the Manchester Evening News exposed an illegal farm selling 400 puppies a year.  The reality is that where there is a market there is a problem.  Animal cruelty exists, dogs are being bred in horrendous conditions with disturbing consequences, financial gain often being the motivation.13982864_ml

 

In 2012 I wrote an article about the problems that may arise from buying a puppy without seeing the birth mother.  I have attached the article for reference and download.

 

Related Articles:

The Dog’s Trust – Battery Farmed Dogs:  Battery Farmed Dogs Campaign (Puppy Farming)

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