“Do you have any dogs for adoption? We’re looking for a puppy.”
Her dad carried her into the store. They were on a quest to find that ‘just right’ canine companion to join their family. The little girl looked around, eyes wide with discovery, looking carefully at the new things she saw – dog toys, bones, leashes. When she spotted the pup her eyes grew wider – with curiosity, delight and apprehension.
“Would you like to pet the puppy?”
The little girl shook her head slowly and clutched her dad closer. I reached down and patted the pup. He sat and wagged his tail, looking up at us, turning on that special puppy charm. The little girl’s dad squatted down to pat the pup, reassuring the little girl that Clyde was a very nice pup. Tentatively she reached out her small hand and touch Clyde’s side. She giggled. She reached out again, patted Clyde then scooted off her dad’s lap. She smiled at Clyde.
Her eyes widened a little as she reached for the treat. I showed the little girl how to hold out a treat with a flat palm. She looked at her dad, she looked at Clyde, and then she opened her palm. Clyde gently took the treat. The little girl smiled. It didn’t take long for the little girl to fall in love with the fun-loving Clyde.
It’s not uncommon for people – children and adults – to be afraid of dogs. With a little patience and coaching the fear can be overcome. Taking some extra time to teach children how to interact safely with dogs and cats will help alleviate fear and make it easier to add a canine or feline companion to the family.
Pet Safety Tips:
- Greetings – Dogs, like people, need their personal space. Rather than rushing head on to hug a dog, teach children to approach dogs calmly and from the side. Most dogs do not like being hugged, unless they were taught from a young age to accept human hugs. Dogs may drop back, cower, growl, nip or bite if hugged. Patting a dog on the side is a safe, non-confrontational way to greet any dog.
- Offering treats – People love giving treats to dogs and most dogs are more than willing to accept a yummy morsel. In their excitement to get the treat some dogs may nip fingers. Avoid this problem completely by teaching children to offer treats from a flat palm. When the child’s hand is open and fingers are flat then fingers don’t get in the way of tasty treats.
- Personal space – Most people don’t like dogs sitting at the dinner table trying to steal the family dinner. Likewise dogs don’t like people stealing their food or bones. Create a ‘place’ for the family dog – a crate, a dog bed, or an area in the kitchen or laundry room – that is a ‘do not disturb the dog’ space. When it’s time for the pup to have a meal, a bone, or a tasty chewing treat, children should respect the pup’s personal space and leave the pup alone.
“We just started looking for a dog, but I sure do like Clyde. We’ll be back with the rest of the family.”
The little girl continued petting Clyde, overcoming her fear of dogs completely while learning how to greet, pet and give treats to dogs. Her dad swooped her into his arms to leave. Tears welled up in the little girls eyes.
They were back. When the little girl saw Clyde she smiled, went to Clyde and patted him. They looked like old friends greeting each other. Her mom was a little surprised. The little girl wasn’t afraid of the dog. It was clear that the little girl was Clyde’s number one fan. The older girl greeted Clyde, offered treats open handed and within moments Clyde had another fan. The little girls and their dad looked at mom with pleading eyes.
“It looks like it’s been decided.”
The mom had questions – good questions about adding a dog to the family. We talked about food, appropriate toys, how to deal with chewing, setting boundaries. The biggest concern was keeping the dog off the furniture. While we talked we found a solution that made everyone happy.
And they did…Clyde and his new family headed home TOGETHER.