With the new fashion of people wanting to adopt dogs, and the flourishing businesses of pet shops and veterinary clinics, it might help those who have never had a dog to take some advice from a book called “May I Pet Your Dog?” by Stephanie Calmenson. The sub-title is The How-to Guide for Kids Meeting Dogs and Dogs Meeting Kids. Everyone hopes that the first encounter will be a pleasant one, and lead to a long and happy relationship. However, there are a few tips for beginners:
A Note to Grownups: The surest way to keep your child safe around dogs is with careful supervision. For times when you cannot be present, though, help your child learn as much as possible about dogs. The more your child knows, the safer and happier he or she will be.
Most dogs are willing to be friendly, but the first approach is important. When a child sees a dog, it is usually on a leash. He (am going to stick to the masculine pronoun to make it easier, but obviously everything applies to girls too), waits to hear from the owner if the dog is friendly. If so, hold your hand out, with the fingers down, and let the dog sniff it. Watch for the reaction. If the dog wags its tail or is friendly, you can pat him gently. Come to him from the side, not over his head, which sometimes frightens the dog.
Always be gentle with dogs. Ask before you touch them. Remember: Hold your hand out, with fingers down, and let the dog come and sniff your hand. Then, reach gently, slowly, from the side, to pet him.
Most dogs have a favorite petting spot; you can ask if this new dog has one. Sometimes behind the ears, sometimes on the side, on his tummy, or on his head.
But: Here comes a dog I don´t know, and am not sure it is friendly. You know what to do: ask if you can pet it, before getting too close. Some dogs do not like strangers; they growl or pull away. In that case, the dog is saying “DON´T come near me. Don´t even look at me. Stay away”. In that case, stay perfectly still and quiet until it passes by.
In the street, with a stray dog without an owner, go through the same procedure. Ask respectfully “May I pet you?” if there are friendly signals, hold your hand out, fingers down, and let it sniff you. The slowly and gently, try petting it. Do not speak loudly, call out to other people, make a fuss. The dog may just run away.
Perhaps the dog will lick your fingers (Kiss, kiss) and say, “oh I am so glad you found me…” and you may have found a friend.
Lula May Reed