There’s No Excuse For Not Teaching Your Children How To Act Around Animals

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girl and dog interactingYou can use a lot of words to describe my dog; smelly, obnoxious, afraid of dryer lint…but the one thing he isn’t is unfriendly.

He’s what we like to call “aggressively friendly”. This is a dog that has been trained to ring a bell when he has to make peepers but can not, for the life of us, be trained to not go absolutely ape shit when he sees someone he wants to lick. Lets just say it’s a work in progress. Is this a problem? That depends.

For most people, it isn’t. I will warn them that he will pounce upon them and accost them with his dog breath and love them into submission if they come too close. They can decide if it’s worth it and I usually have time to calm him down before they come near so that the biggest danger anyone faces is a vigorous tail whipping. That’s usually fine.

But for little kids, my dog can be a terrifying monster, especially the toddler to four-years-old set. He has powerful legs for such a small dog and with enough velocity he can easily knock a child down if I don’t have enough time to restrain him.

Which is why the number of children who come running up to us when I’m taking him for a walk is absolutely astounding. They don’t ask to pet him, they don’t let him sniff them, they just dive right into the ear-grabbing, tail-pulling part of the interaction. My dog is really friendly, but it still seems like a bad idea to not teach kids how to act around strange animals.

On some occasions a parent will amble up after their kid and ask questions like, “Are you petting the puppy? Is it a nice puppy?”

I want to slap these people, because a) obviously their kid is petting the puppy and b) aren’t you lucky that this is a nice puppy as opposed to one who will flip the fuck out and bite your kid?

I’ve started to try and circumvent the entire interaction completely.  I work with him daily on staying calm when someone approaches. I’ll pick my dog up or say, “No thank you” to the kids that touch him without permission or just keep walking, dragging my whining, love-starved dog behind me.This may be rude, but not teaching your kid to act around animals is also rude. And stupid. And irresponsible. And irresponsibly stupid.

Like I said, my dog is friendly. I’m confident that he won’t bite someone, but that’s not something even I want to take a chance on. Even really sweet dogs have a limit; if your child accidentally hurts or scares an animal, there’s a good chance that instinct will kick in and that animal will defend itself against what they perceive as a threat.

If you don’t teach your children how to approach and interact with an animal, then there is a very real possibility that either the child or the animal could get hurt. Some people might say that it’s a person’s responsibility to teach their dogs how to act around kids, and that’s true. But pets aren’t about to disappear off the face of the planet, so we need to teach our kids how to act around them, as well. Starting with “Never, ever approach a strange animal”.

If we also teach kids to be safe riding their bikes, interacting with strangers, and riding in the car, it makes sense to teach children how to act around dogs as well. After all, according to the CDC, half of all dog bites that require medical attention happen to children. It seems like a given, safety-wise.

So if you ever see me and my aggressively friendly dog out for a walk, I don’t mind if your kid pets him. Just give me some advance notice so that I can pin him down for a more relaxing experience for everyone.

(Image: Andresr/Shutterstock )