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Is Your Dog Friendly? Children Around Dogs

by Sheryl Matthys, The Dog Expert and Founder of

Ask, then act. Asking someone if their dog is friendly is a polite way of letting them know you’d like to pet their dog. It’s an especially good way to teach children that all dogs aren’t interested in being touched by a stranger… so be careful.

Now that the nice weather has arrived, it seems everyone is out for a walk in the neighborhood including our four legged friends. While most dogs are friendly, wonderful, and playful, every dog has the capacity to feel threatened and may react in an unexpected way.

Since you can’t judge a dog’s demeanor based on its cuteness, here are some tips so everyone gets along.

Tips for a child to approach a dog and its owner:

1. Ask the owner if their dog is friendly and if they can pet their dog
2. Offer a back hand fist or hand out with fingers down
3. Let the dog approach the child to sniff
4. Pet a dog gently reaching from the side, not over its head
5. Ask to offer their dog a treat as dogs remember those who reward them

Since some dogs may not be familiar with children’s sounds and actions, it’s a good idea for children to refrain from screaming, squealing, and running. Even puppies who may seem harmless love to nip, chew, and chase small children which could be fun or frightening for both parties.

Some dogs perceive direct eye contact as threatening. That might present a problem when your child is standing face to face with them. You’ll want to be close enough to all of them to intervene if there’s a problem.

Americans love dogs – we own more than 65 million of them. Unfortunately, there are about 5 million dog bites a year according the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC says nearly 1 million of those bites required medical attention with half of those involving children.

The interaction between a child and a strange dog can be a sweet moment and an endearing one that hopefully inspires them to make a dog a part of their family someday. By taking simple precautions, it can be a pleasant experience that leaves everyone with a smile on their face.

About Sheryl Matthys:
Sheryl Matthys has two children, two greyhounds and is a certified dog trainer. As The Dog Expert, and Founder of, Sheryl talks with dog lovers on how their dogs impact their personal relationships. Leashes and Lovers offers an online community for dog lovers to create a profile at