The idiomatic phrase “over the top” or “going over the top” is used to describe someone making an effort that is excessive or more than is required to accomplish a task. Sometimes the phrase is used to describe an action that is judged to be fool-hearty or needlessly dangerous.

What you may not know is that “going over the top” also refers to the action of petting a dog by reaching over him to the top of his head. Needlessly dangerous would be the part of the above definition that best applies to petting a dog on his head, and that goes for patting him on his head as well.  To a dog, this is considered to be threatening and will entice a dog to open his mouth as your hand passes over his face. Many children, in particular, are bitten by strange dogs when executing this type of intimidating “over the top” petting.



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There are two very important facts to remember when a child, or an adult for that matter, encounters a strange dog. 

  1. No matter how friendly, cute, small, and non-threatening a dog may appear to be, even if the dog is wagging his tail, it is essential that permission is given by the pet parent to approach their dog. This includes dogs that are on a leash and even wagging their tail.

2. The proper way to pet a dog, any dog, is to first let the dog sniff your hand, fingers curled, rather than extended, should the dog decide to bite. If the dog appears accepting of your friendly gesture, then pet the dog gently and calmly with your palm up, under the dog’s chin.

A good sign to look for is if the dog appears to be well trained and is sitting, without being restrained, as instructed to do so, by the pet parent.

Children should be taught to ask their parents, for permission to ask the pet parent, for permission to pet a strange dog.

Free photos of Golden retrieverIt is important to keep in mind that not all dogs like to be touched by strangers. Not all dogs like children. Not all dogs are comfortable in confined areas or unfamiliar places especially that are noisy or there are a lot of distractions. Older dogs that are blind or physically challenged by arthritis or other medical issues, may not appreciate being approached or touched especially by strangers. Rescue dogs may have suffered abuse at some time in their life and should not be approached without permission by the pet parent.

Approximately 5 MILLION people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States.

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