Here’s my list of the things that I think all kids need to know about dogs!
- How to meet new dogs
It’s sometimes hard to tell from the outside if a dog is friendly or not, so if you come across a dog that’s on its own then it’s best not to try and pat it. If a dog is with its owner, ask if you can pat the dog first. If it’s ok, hold out the back of your hand for the dog to sniff – dogs are happier if they can approach you, so it’s best not to rush right up to them and never stand over them. Then you can pat the dog – under the chin or on the chest is the best spot, as this isn’t an intimidating area for the dog so is the safest area to handle.
- When to leave dogs alone
There are some times when dogs should be left alone – when they are eating, chewing a toy, sleeping, showing signs of stress or if they are in their car or on their own property. Dogs that are startled unexpectedly can lash out, especially if they think you might be trying to take their food or favourite toy!
- What your behaviour is saying to your dog
As humans, we love to look at each other in the eye, hug tightly and (at times) scream, shout and play loudly. But to a dog, these things can be seen as a threat – it’s best not to look dogs straight in the eye, rush towards them, startle them with screaming or shouting (even if it’s playful) or hug them. Instead, let dogs approach you and pat them nicely under the chin and on the chest area.
- What to do if an aggressive dog approaches
If you meet a dog that is scary or seems aggressive, don’t look the dog in the eye and never run away. Instead, be very calm and still, stand with your arms to your sides, turn your body side on and don’t look the dog directly in the eye. If someone is nearby, gently call for help in a very calm tone of voice, and if you can, slowly start to back away from the dog until you are somewhere safe like in a house or a car.
- How to care for a dog
Dogs have feelings and need looking after. Every day they need good food, fresh water, a warm bed and a sheltered place to sleep, playtime, exercise and most importantly – heaps of love and attention. Sometimes they might also need a bath or a brush! Ask your parents what you can do to help look after your dog – if you love and care for your dog, it will love you back forever.
- Different dogs like different things – just like us!
If you have a dog that loves everything you do, that’s great! Many family pets that have grown up with kids don’t mind loud and unexpected noises, being climbed on, chased, played with, dressed up, hugged tightly – or anything else that kids might do. But remember not all dogs are the same, and just because your dog likes hugs and playing, it doesn’t mean that every other dog does too. Always ask a dog’s owner what it does and doesn’t like, and how to treat it. Remember, most dogs don’t like being hugged, climbed on, having their collar pulled or shouting and screaming.
- How to tell how a dog is feeling
When dogs are feeling stressed, they might pant, shake, have their tail tucked between their legs, lower their body or turn away from you, or they might whine. A dog that is on the verge of being aggressive might stiffen up, stare at you, growl or bark, stand tall, have its ears standing up straight on its head, have its tail high, and its hackles might stand up (these are the hairs along the back of a dog’s neck and back, which can stand up on end if the dog is feeling aggressive or frightened). If you see any of these warning signs, stay quiet and remove yourself from the dog’s area calmly and quickly, then let an adult know you’re worried about the dog.
- What you shouldn’t feed a dog
Most dogs love food, and many dogs also like human food – but that doesn’t mean it is good for them! There are some foods you shouldn’t feed dogs – even if they are acting like they want some. Don’t feed your dog apple cores, avocado, cooked bones, lollies, chocolate, grapes, raisins, nuts, onions, peaches, plums or anything too salty or sugary. Some people foods that dogs can have are raw bones, cheese, eggs, peanut butter, cooked chicken and rice. But always ask an adult or the dog’s owner before feeding a dog anything, as you don’t want to accidentally make a dog sick!
- That dogs love us
Dogs love us just as much as we love them, and most dogs are good and well-socialised. There’s no need to be scared of dogs – just have some knowledge about their behaviour, and remember to treat them with love, care and respect. That way, a dog can be your best friend – and you’ll never have a friend that loves and cares about you more. They’re great at keeping secrets too!