One thing that has become evident as I have fostered and adopted dogs from the shelter is how many kids do not know proper etiquette to meet and greet a stranger’s dog. Seeing a cute dog out in public and wanting to interact with it can be exciting, but teaching children the proper safety and etiquette for this is paramount.
This is something that needs to be taught and modeled by parents to help keep things safe and relaxed. As a parent you should make yourself aware of these steps and practice them with your child each interaction they have with a dog in public or at a friend’s or family’s house.
Step 1- Assess the situation
Does the owner and dog look like they want to be approached or are comfortable with it? If the owner is hesitant or crosses the street to put space between you and them, then they most likely are not comfortable with that interaction.
Step 2- Ask permission
Before approaching the dog and owner ask verbal permission from a safe distance back. Stay in one place and wait for them to reply.
Step 3- Approaching the Dog
After receiving permission leave any items like toys, bikes, etc that could scare the dog. Approach slowly from the side of the animal using a calm voice and body movements. The other option is to have the dog approach you. You do not want to approach too quickly or toward the back of the dog where they can’t see you. Slowly, place your hand out with your palm down for the dog to sniff. If they seem comfortable you can proceed.
Step 5- Petting the Dog
Even if the dog seems super friendly, do not put your face in their face. Pet the dog slowly and gently on the side of the head or under the neck. Take a quick break from petting. This gives the dog an opportunity to take a break if they need it or lean in for more.
There are a lot of dogs, especially from the shelter, that are relearning how to walk on a leash, interact with humans, and be around external stimuli so it is important to keep that in mind as you approach a dog.
It is best for an adult to supervise these interactions at all times but knowing how to greet a dog in any situation will always come in handy and make safe and fun interactions for everyone.