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Attention Parents: Teach Your Child How To Interact Safely With Dogs

Responsible parenting when it comes to children and dogs goes something like this...

The Question

To begin with, parents must teach their child to ALWAYS ask to pat any dog. This is something that should be drummed into a child’s head (but done in a way that doesn't scare them about dogs in general). So when a child sees a dog, this should be the conversation that follows:

Child: Can I pat that dog?
Parent: Let’s ask the person if it’s okay.

The Approach

Once parent and child approach the person with the dog, the conversation will go one of three ways:

Conversation Possibility 1:
Parent: My child
would like to pat your dog. Is your dog okay with children?
Person: No, unfortunately she’s not okay with kids.
Parent: Thanks for being honest.

Conversation Possibility 2
Parent: My child would like to pat your dog. Is your dog okay with children?
Person: She should be okay.

Conversation Possibility 3
Parent: My child would like to pat your dog. Is your dog okay with children?
Person: Yes, she’s fine with kids.

Walking Away

Obviously after Conversation 1, you'd walk away. But not so obvious is that after Conversation 2  you should also walk away. Why? Because "She should be okay” is NOT the same as “Yes, she's okay”.

In my experience, the use of “should” indicates a level of denial about the nature of the dog. I’ve seen it over and again with regards to dog-to-dog interactions. I’ve learnt the hard way that “She should be okay” means that either the dog’s behaviour is unpredictable or that the person can't admit to themselves that their dog simply doesn’t like other dogs. Either way, when I hear "She should be okay”, I always walk away, and I strongly advise you to do the same.

The Best Patting Technique For Kids

After Conversation 3, guide your child to pat the dog as per the below step-by-step. Say the following to your child, and do all the steps with them:

  • Stand here on the side of the dog.

  • Curl up your hand [ie. make a fist].

  • Put your hand slowly, slowly towards the dog's nose.

  • Hold your hand still, and let the doggie sniff-sniff-sniff.

  • Now give the doggie a nice soft tickle-tickle-tickle, right here [on the side of the dog’s neck].  

Note: the reason I like to encourage children to do a tickling motion when they pat a dog, is that I've found it to be the best way to prevent a child from accidentally patting too hard or grabbing a handful of skin and squeezing.

Pass It On!

I hope you take my suggestions to heart, and please pass the above information on to other parents.

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Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance

It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.

Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.

Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.

Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.

Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.

If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.

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