Posted Date: January 21, 2016
Do you know how to coach children how to properly greet your dogs? Here's some helpful tips from Doggone Safe and the AVMA.
January 21st is "National Hugging Day" which surprisingly has been around since 1986. How is this relevant to dogs and agility? All of us who own and live with one more dogs should be aware of our own responsibility to teach children (and even some adults!) how to properly interact with dogs.
Hugging dogs is something that many of us instinctually do with our own pets because humans tend to use hugging as a form of affection and assume dogs enjoy this. While some dogs may enjoy it, most probably humor us with tolerating it, and many dislike hugging quite a bit. If you look at collections of photos on the internet of people hugging dogs, particularly children, you can see that the body language of the dogs often show signs of stress. And unfortunately this is a major reason for children getting bitten by the family dog or dogs they meet during their daily life. A 2007 report by the National Institutes of Health found that hugging was one of the most common reasons children were bitten coupled with an underlying behavioral issue such as food guarding.
It's important for all of us as good dog owners and "ambassadors" for dogs to teach children to safely interact with dogs, both for their safety and for our dogs' safety as well. And teaching children can be fun! Doggone Safe is a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing dog bites to children and their website contains numerous resources geared toward a child's learning level to make teaching enjoyable, such as board games, books, flash cards and more. The AVMA website has resources on dog bite prevention as well. When a child asks to interact with your dog, thank them enthusiastically for asking and show them how to properly greet your canine companion. You can make this even more fun by teaching your dog tricks, such as waving hello and shake, which can have the added benefit of making the child laugh and positively remembering their interaction.
Even some adults who are unfamiliar with dogs can get into "the hugging habit." Again, always know your individual dogs. Some dogs do enjoy hugging, but if you see that your dog's body language says they'd prefer to be doing anything but being given a big bear hug by your Uncle Bob, remember to be your dog's advocate and encourage your adult friends or family to interact in a way that is mutually fun for the dog and the person. So remember, keep the hugging to the humans in your life on National Hugging Day and your dog will thank you!
Photo credit: Jesse and Molly via photopin (license)